There’s a “Star Trek: The Next Generation” moment that reminds me of my favourite movies. A father says to his son, “I can see in your face all the people I’ve loved in my lifetime.” He mentions the boy’s mother and grandparents as examples. I feel similarly about my favourite movies. Like loved ones with different personalities, their details vary (genre, director, cast, and decade), yet they share defining characteristics with the things I love most dearly in life.
I’ve been an avid fan of 1930s movies for almost 2 years now. “Queen Christina” is the only ’30s movie that I’ve loved as much as my most treasured films from the ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s. After watching this movie again, I realized it shares with them an idealistic heart and writing of a rare, distinguished sophistication.
Exploring the Swedish countryside, Christina discovers a kindred spirit when she meets a man who matches her eloquence and romanticism. Watching them discuss love, travel, and the necessity of independence in life, I recalled conversations that made me enamoured with friendships and relationships in movies like “Before Sunrise”, “The Sure Thing”, and “Lucas”. Later in the movie, Christina reflects on the demands of being a queen:
I have grown up in a great man’s shadow. All my life, I’ve been a symbol. A symbol is eternal, changeless…an abstraction. A human being is mortal and changeable, with desires and impulses, hopes and despairs. I’m tired of being a symbol, Chancellor. I long to be a human being! This longing I cannot suppress.
These words brought to my mind those of a man in another movie who decided that he actually wants to be a symbol…
As a man, I’m flesh and blood. I can be ignored. I can be destroyed. But as a symbol…
As a symbol, I can be incorruptible.
I can be everlasting.
Connecting “Queen Christina” to “Batman Begins” made me remember why I felt so grateful for that movie in 2005. I think my feelings echoed those of many Batman fans who grew up in the 1990s. After living through several Batman movies that were more fixated on images than ideas, it was refreshing to have one that focused on the hero’s philosophy more than gadgets and gimmicks. It just goes to show that directors, writers, and actors always make movies better (especially for me) when they delve deep into the hearts and minds of intelligent and likable characters.
I’m also excited to have found harmony between “Queen Christina” and some music I like. In the 2000s, I became aware of a band from England called ‘Zombina and the Skeletones’. As the name suggests, they’re a horror rock-themed band that performs songs related to subjects like scary movies, monsters, Halloween, and goth culture. Some of their songs are too silly and trivial for my tastes.
Others satisfy me on a superficial level because they’re catchy and fun. My favourites actually have poignancy and sincerity in their emotion. One of them is called “Christina”. Over the past year, I’ve been thinking about “Queen Christina” every time I listen to it. The song’s lyrics remind me of Queen Christina’s troubled life and its melody reminds of her 1933 movie’s melancholy ambiance.
Since the song wasn’t written specifically for “Queen Christina”, some of its lyrics are ill-suited for the movie and characters in it. One line that’s especially incongruous with them is “The ugliest angel of them all”. This is not the correct way to describe Greta Garbo or her charming co-star John Gilbert. When I listen to the song, I mentally re-write those lyrics so that they become ‘The loveliest angel of them all’. The idea of someone finding Greta Garbo ugly is ludicrous to me. It doesn’t make any sense. Maybe some people think Greta Garbo is ugly. I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t wanna know.
Ever since “Christina” by Zombina and the Skeletones first reminded me of “Queen Christina”, I’ve wanted to make a music video that combines the two. I was inspired to go ahead and do it after recently watching “Queen Christina” for the third time in my life. You can watch the video below. If you click here to watch it on Youtube, you’ll find lyrics under the video. I encourage you to use my alternate lyrics for that ‘ugliest angel of them all’ line. Garbo and Gilbert both deserve a much better description. I can see one right in the song. Without giving away any of the movie’s significant events, I think it sums up Garbo’s performance quite well: “A dead star will fall…burning intensely much brighter than any other.”