In my view Garbo's greatest film, and her most personal. Among my other favorites are Camille and Ninotchka, but Queen Christina is her stand-out classic above all others. I have read that Garbo was personally exicted by and involved in this production to an extent unparalled for her, motivated by the Swedish (her homeland) history and the opportunity to play one of history's most enigmatic figures, the queen who "abdicated her throne for love" (though this portrayal is, of course, largely "Hollywoodized"--you can probably throw most expectations of historical accuracy out the window, just set back and behold).
Here is every aspect of the legendary Garbo in one film: the breathtakingly beautiful woman, the amibiguous sexuality, the great tragienne, the aloofness, the boyish playfulness, the restless longing to escape any enforced tableaux or expectations of others and live her own life by her own terms, all things she had in common with Queen Christina. Here also is her warm, memorable final pairing with her former real-life amor and frequent co-star John Gilbert.
Two legendary scenes stand out: Garbo walking about, as if in a daze, memorizing the inn room in which she and Gilbert have just spent the night (a scene almost lost due to censors), and of course the final, unforgettable closeup, the greatest closeup in the history of cinema--simply stunning, as is the heartbreaking farewell to the dying Gilbert moments before. Not to be missed scenes also are Garbo running out of the castle into the bitter cold, rubbing snow in her face like a child, and the warm relationship with her elderly attendant, C. Aubrey Smith, who dotes on her like a daughter, combing her hair, tending to her every need with tender love and protectiveness. --One of the overlooked subtexts in the film is the parentless Christina's relationships with two major father figures, Lewis Milestone (another frequent co-star) as a palace official, who vehemently protests Christina's decision to step down from the throne, along with the personal attendant, C. Aubrey Smith, with his benevolent, Mark Twain face, caring for Christina in a motherly fashion, wanting only her happiness, wherever that takes her....
In life Garbo indeed appeared reclusive and aloof, though I suspect she was simply a very shy person who perhaps never fully comprehended what it was we all wanted from her. But here, in Queen Christina, actress and woman merge. Garbo opened up for us in a way she had never before and would never again, fully showing us both her great strength and acute vulnerability, and the result is spellbinding, a treasure forever, Garbo's gift to us all, and we are all the beneficiaries.