The Girl King | Mardi Gras Film Festival

This year’s Mardi Gras Film Festival is about to kick off, it is my favourite time of the year for movies as I finally get to see some amazing gay films from all over the world that you would never be able to see otherwise. If you are in Sydney dear peeps, I urge you to check out the Mardi Gras Film Festival Website and grab yourself some tickets, the festival runs from February 18th to March 3rd 2016 and some of the films are already selling out, there are so many amazing movies this year and Salty will be desperately trying to cover as many as we can. The first cab off the rank was  and we follow up with our second review for the festival, THE GIRL KING. This movie screens on Friday Feb 26th at 630pm at George St and Sunday 28th at 630pm at Cremorne Orpheum, it is for an 18+ audience only and runs for 106mins – tickets are available HERE. Enjoy Kernel Morgan’s review….all the best….JK.


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THE GIRL KING is based on a real piece of history around the real Queen Kristina of Sweden, between her coronation and the end of her reign (1650-54). Kristina did not conform to gender norms with her dress, manner, academics, or bed partners. She had progressive ideas on science and learning and peace. THE GIRL KING details her love affair with Ebba ’Belle’ Sparre, her friendship with the French philosopher René Descartes and his death in her kingdom, and her eventual abdication of the throne.

I have seen a bit of criticism about THE GIRL KING pertaining to it having a TV-movie ‘look’ and having a badly translated (from French to English) clunky screenplay, and while I can see how critics may think this, I believe the reason why THE GIRL KING has an ‘uncanny valley’ feel to it is not entirely merit-based. I hypothesise it is due to our subliminal expectations that in a tale of kings and queens we will be seeing the furnishing and décor of the English Renaissance. As the costume designer Marjatta Nissinen has said “The beginning of the 1600s is so special because it’s not medieval or renaissance anymore, yet it’s not like later in the 18th century, it’s unique.”


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THE GIRL KING was made on a budget of less than a million dollars (which by comparison ELIZABETH and SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE were each 25 million, THE YOUNG VICTORIA was 35 million, THE DUCHESS was 20 million) and is mostly white stone castle interiors with some beautiful outdoor snow scenes. I found after I adjusted to the style and fashions within the earlier scenes, that the androgynous costumes, hats and furs of the older established Kristina were something to relish and embrace.

Similarly, I initially thought the face of the actor playing Kristina, Malin Buska, to be a little plain and emotionless, but over the arc of the whole film she radiates non-traditional beauty through her character development. The real Kristina was speculated to have been intersex and autistic. In THE GIRL KING we see her from a very little girl grappling with a mentally ill mother – who kept her dead father’s corpse for a year and had her kiss him every day – to a pillar of ethical strength who ends the Thirty Years’ War in Central Europe (which lasted between 1618 and 1648 between Protestants and Catholics), and then to a humble and inexperienced lover bucking convention and religious taboo.

Apart from the lesbian romance, which was sometimes awkward, but never gratuitous, the most fascinating thing about this film is where Kristina’s rule intersects with the humanist and rationalist teaching of René Descartes. He claims to have found the biological human ‘soul’ through scientific experimentation. Descartes was a mathematician as well as a philosopher and is responsible for Cartesian geometry, the Cartesian coordinate system, and Cartesian equations (all named after him). It is worth watching THE GIRL KING just to learn about the shameful manner in which he was killed.


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We have a couple of famous faces in this Swedish/Finnish production. Michael Nyqvist (Mikael Blomkvist in the original THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO) plays the Chancellor, Christina’s primary advisor. Sarah Gadon (BELLE, A ROYAL NIGHT OUT, A DANGEROUS METHOD) plays Kristina’s love interest Ebba. François Arnaud (Cesare Borgia in THE BORGIAS) plays Christina’s cousin, who is infatuated with her. Lucas Bryant (Nathan Wuornos in HAVEN) plays the Chancellor’s son, and Kristina’s life-long friend. And Patrick Bauchau (CARNIVALE, THE PRETENDER) plays the philosopher Descartes.

One of the strongest scenes in THE GIRL KING is when Kristina’s advisors wheel out her long estranged mother, a staunch German Lutheran, in an effort to brow-beat Kristina and regain some control over her behaviour. Her mother is played by Martina Gedeck (MOSTLY MARTHA, THE LIVES OF OTHERS, THE BAADER MEINHOF COMPLEX, LIFE IS ALL YOU GET) in a phenomenal and scathing performance, demanding Kristina comply with social norms. She is commanding and intimidating. It is a tipping point in the events of the film.

I would recommend THE GIRL KING for lovers of historical dramas like ORLANDO, THE COUNTESS, or POSSESSION. It is the lush period aesthetics of THE TUDORS, with all the sneaking about darkened corridors and back-stabbery, with a queer protagonist.


4 Pops



Kernel Morgan is an author of short fiction, an anthology editor, and a technical writer. Her books include SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS and SPROUTLINGS. She enjoys scowling at children and bursting bubbles. She can be tweeted at @queenboxi

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.


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