Chief fault with Christina is its lethargy. It is slow and ofttimes stilted. This is perhaps good cinematic motivation to establish the contrast between the queen, who has been reared as a boy to succeed to the Swedish throne, and the episode in the wayside inn where she shares her room with the new Spanish envoy who had mistaken her for a flip Nordic youth.
The buildup of the romance fol-de-rol, after the major climactic clinch, is a bit DeMille-Stroheim. Greta Garbo, in this sequence, for example, consumes beaucoup footage caressing sundry pieces of furniture, fixtures and plaques in the room, in a self-expressed purpose of memorizing every aspect thereof and when John Gilbert asks her, ‘What are you doing?’ sympathetically, the audience isn’t quite as understanding.
The background is an obviously romantic admixture of history and fiction [story by Salka Viertel and Margaret P. Levino], touching lightly on the protestations of the A.D. 1600 Protestant Sweden’s nationals against their queen’s alliance with a Catholic from Spain. Gilbert is the Spanish envoy who has come to Stockholm on the expressly diplomatic and amorous mission of asking for the queen’s hand in marriage to his king, the Spanish ruler.
Garbo’s performance is too often apace of the script’s lethargy, but as often, and more, in glamorous keeping with the romantic high-lights. Her regal impression is convincing, which counts for plenty.
That goes for almost every character, from the humble peasants who are called upon to manifest their deep-rooted loyalty to the Crown in words, to the members of the royal court.