Filmsite Movie Review
Queen Christina (1933)
Pages: (1) (2) (3)
Plot Synopsis (continued)

They ride through the snowy woods on their horses, with Christina androgynously looking like a lower-class young man (with a page-boy haircut) - so she can be anonymous and unrecognized among her subjects. When she witnesses a Spanish carriage as it gets stuck in a ditch of soft snow, she rides nearby and laughs heartily to mock their predicament. Her merriment annoys the foreign passenger, the handsome Spanish envoy Don Antonio de la Prada (John Gilbert): "You find this amusing, do you?" She orders Aage how to assist the coachmen to pull the coach out of the deep snow and rescue the travelers from the warmer climes of the south. And she offers directions to the nearest inn: "Two leagues. You can be there by nightfall, that is, unless you fall into another ditch." The Spanish envoy tells his servant Pedro (Akim Tamiroff) to "get the boy a dollar." When she looks down at the gift of a Swedish dollar coin - with her likeness imprinted on the front - she realizes that he hasn't recognized her on his journey - to see her.

When they arrive at the snowbound country inn with snow falling - before the Spanish carriage appears, she (thought to be a young man) orders "supper, a room, and bed" from the landlord/innkeeper (Ferdinand Munier). She secures the only vacant room: "the best one - that's for people of quality...the best room in the house it is too, my lord." Her reaction to the room leads to risque discussion about room-sharing with a companion for the night:

Christina: It looks adequate but lonesome.
Innkeeper: Well, that's soon remedied. A fine young man like your lordship, it is a cold night to be alone, that's certain. I could find your lordship some good company if you're in the mood.

From the balcony, she overhears the arrival of the Spanish and their dismay that the inn is full. Recognizing him/her from the road, she/he is invited to join the ambassador's table where she/he engages the unaware envoy in a discussion about Spain - a place she has never been: "I shall like news of your countrymen...I shall like news of Velasquez. Has he painted any new works recently? And what of Calderon? He writes plays so quickly there must be new ones since last I heard." The newly-arrived Spanish representative is homesick for his sunny, warm homeland, where love flourishes, and they have a length conversation comparing the climates and passions of Nordic and southern lands. To Christina, however, love is only a "simple, elemental thing":

Don Antonio: Have you ever traveled? Have you ever been far from home? Have you ever been homesick?
Christina: I've never been out of Sweden.
Don Antonio: Then you don't know what it is to be homesick. You don't know what it means to feel that sense of loss, the pain of nostalgia.
Christina: One can feel nostalgia for places one has never seen.
Don Antonio: Yes, that's quite true. Young man, that's the second time I've underestimated you...Imagine in this ice-cap finding someone who knows Spain. You understand I admire your country. It's rugged and strong and impressive. It has all the virile qualities...At home, our people are less hearty. They're a bit more graceful. It's all a question of climate. You can't serenade a woman in a snowstorm. All the graces and the arts of love - the elaborate approaches that go to make the game of love amusing - can only be practiced in those countries that quiver in the heat of the sun, in the still langorous nights where every breeze caresses with amour. Love, as we understand it, is a technique that must be developed in hot countries.
Christina: Sounds glamorous and yet...somewhat mechanical. Evidently, you Spaniards make too much fuss about a simple, elemental thing like love. We Swedes are more direct.
Don Antonio: Well, that's civilization. To disguise the elemental with the glamorous. A great love has to be nourished, has to be...
Christina: (sighing) A great love...
Don Antonio: Don't you believe in its possibility?
Christina: In its possibility, yes, but not in its existence. A great love, a perfect love is an illusion. It is the golden fable of which we all dream. In an ordinary life, it doesn't happen. In ordinary life, one must be content with less.
Don Antonio: So young, and yet so disillusioned. Young man, you're cynical.
Christina: Not at all, merely realistic.

In the inn, two drunken soldiers quarrel over the reputed number of affairs had by the queen, contending that she has had either six or nine lovers in the past year. They choose the tomboy to mediate their argument and decide to ask her/his opinion. She/he quells their brawl (by standing above them on a table and firing a gun) and adjudicates the matter by suggesting that the queen is highly promiscuous:

Stop fighting. I'll tell you the truth. Well gentlemen, I have the painful duty of telling you that you're both wrong. Sixs and the nines. The truth is that the queen has had twelve lovers this past year, a round dozen. (To Don Antonio) Any lie will find believers as long as you tell it with force enough.

Don Antonio asserts that the Spanish consider the Swedish Queen "a blue-stocking who cares more for learning than she does for love." Christina ponders: "What do they say of her in Rome, I wonder, in Constantinople, in Algiers?"

The proprietor assumes the two men, enjoying verbal repartee together at the corner table, might share the only available room in the overcrowded inn:

The bed as you know is large. You might both lie on it and never know that you were not alone.

At first, the masquerading, slightly-embarrassed queen suggests that the ambassador take the room completely for himself - she is disgusted at the thought of sleeping with a man. After Don Antonio feels insulted, she hesitantly agrees to share with him.

Christina: I'll give up my room to you gladly.
Don Antonio: Give up? I wouldn't hear of it.
Christina: Well, the truth is, uh, please forgive me sir, but since I was little, since I was a child, I've always disliked sharing my room with anyone. So you take the room and I'll go elsewhere.
Don Antonio: I wouldn't hear of it. There isn't another free bed in the inn.
Christina: Well, I'll sleep before the fire.
Don Antonio: Am I so unpresentable? Do my manners disgust you? Does my speech bore you? If you find me so unbearable, forgive me for having imposed myself on you for so long. Good night, sir.
Christina: Please, I...
Don Antonio: Say no more about it. I shall sit before the fire all night.
Christina: Oh no, no, I-you couldn't. I wouldn't, uh... You shall share my room with me.
Don Antonio: Oh, thank you very much. I'll be delighted. If you're ever in Spain, I'll return the hospitality.

As he ushers them into the bedroom, the landlord naively encourages them to have a comfortable night together:

Innkeeper: I know you'll be comfortable. I've always had good reports on this room.
Don Antonio: The room is well-behaved, is it landlord?
Innkeeper: I mean, my lord, I've never had any complaints.

In a splendid twist on sexual identities and preferences, the lusty chambermaid Elsa (Barbara Barondess) propositions the young man (cross-dressed Christina), but she/he declines, implying his/her preference for male company - and more widely implying that they both have homosexual interests:

Elsa: (To Christina) Shall I help you off with your boots, sir?
Christina: No thank you...
Don Antonio: You're very pretty, Elsa. Are you also good?
Elsa: When I do not like a man, yes.
Christina: That's true virtue.
Don Antonio: The basis of all morality in a sentence.
Elsa: Can I get you anything, sir?
Christina: No, thank you.
Elsa: The master says you're to have everything you need.
Christina: Hmmm.
Elsa: (at the door with raised eyebrows as she departs) If you should need anything, my room is at the end of the passage.
Don Antonio: She prefers you. You have the better chance.
Christina: I'd give her up gladly if you're interested.
Don Antonio: No, I'm not interested. Well, don't you think since we're going to share the same bed we should be introduced?

Christina introduces herself simply as Count Dohna. Their conversation becomes more innuendo-laden as to gender identity and sexual persuasion as they prepare for bed:

Don Antonio: Which side do you sleep on, your right or your left?
Christina: I don't know, I never thought of it.
Don Antonio: They say that a man should always sleep on his left side to keep his sword arm free. It's hereditary. It's instinct. (pause) Aren't you going to undress?
Christina: Yes.

Taking off her outer, concealing clothing in front of the roaring fireplace, she stands in a thin white blouse and reveals herself to him. She alters her posture only slightly, bending her knee and leaning. After a bug-eyed double-take at the roundness of her small breasts under her shirt, Don Antonio observes:

Of course. It had to be. I felt it. I felt it. A presence. Oh, life is so gloriously improbable.

The scene fades to black. The next morning dawns, and the couple are hidden from view behind the curtains of the canopy bed. Antonio's coach-servant Pedro knocks and enters, extending the joke about homosexual desire even further:

Pedro: My Lord?
Don Antonio: Well, what is it?
Pedro: It is still snowing, my Lord.
Don Antonio: Good.
Pedro: They say we may not be able to move for three days. Huh? At what hour will your Lordship get up?
Don Antonio: I shall not get up.
Pedro: Huh? (He does a double-take) Very good, milord, will you take chocolate?
Don Antonio: Yes, at once.
Pedro: Will, uh, the other gentleman take chocolate?
Don Antonio: Yes.
Pedro: Very good, milord, two chocolates.

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