In mid-17th century France, Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu together enforce Catholic dominance across the country. In his fanaticism, Richelieu entreats the king to tear down the walls surrounding the small city of Loudun, which–while Catholic–is basically self-governing and (in his mind) a likely haven for Protestants. Charismatic priest Urbain Grandier (Oliver Reed), who is beloved by the townspeople despite his known affairs with local women, has been in charge since the governor died, and he resists any orders to destroy his city’s defensive walls. Meanwhile, Sister Jeanne (Vanessa Redgrave), Mother Superior at Loudun’s Ursuline convent, experiences explicit visions involving Grandier as a sexy Christ figure…
Diagnosed with a debilitating heart condition in her childhood, 22-year-old Chantaly does not leave her house much. Her mother died in childbirth, and her doting father raised her as best he could, but she has always felt the absence of a mother in her life. As an adult she lives quietly, running a small laundry service from their home with the help of her cousin, and playing with her adorable dog Moo. She starts experiencing visual and aural disturbances that might be her dead mother’s ghost, or might be a hallucinatory side-effect of her heart medication. Chanthaly becomes convinced her mother is trying to reach her, trying to tell her the truth about her death, and she gradually comes to distrust and resent her well-meaning but overprotective father.
“Human beings are fucked,” I think to myself, not for the first time, and certainly not for the last, as the opening exposition of Bong Joon-ho’s realistically cynical (but otherwise ridiculously unrealistic) futuristic thriller, Snowpiercer, plays over the speakers. Immediately, we know that an experimental substance was launched into the atmosphere in 2014 with the hope that it would balance the earth’s climate. Instead, it launched a world-wide ice age that killed almost everything living. The last bastion of humanity is found on a train, a self-sustaining technological marvel built to withstand extreme temperatures as it chugs along its year-long circuit.
Inspired by the actual historical figure of Queen Christina, colorful and controversial queen of Sweden from 1633-1654, Queen Christina begins with the title character’s assumption of her throne at the age of 6, after her father is killed in battle during the Thirty Years’ War. She grows up a serious, studious woman who feels more comfortable in men’s clothes and devotes her rare solitary hours to reading classic literature and plays. She dedicates herself fully to being a good ruler, though after years of war over religion in Europe she questions the benefits of it versus the cost. She hopes to see her country move past violent conflict and instead establish itself as a new cultural center.
Aspiring punks Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) may only be thirteen years old, but they are ready to take on the world with their newly-formed band. At first trying to teach themselves to play bass and drums, they eventually enlist shy Christian guitarist Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) to join the group, and the three forge a solid but sometimes tempestuous friendship. Politics, class, puberty, and music all intermingle as the girls come of age- sticking together through first crushes, first DIY haircuts, first hangovers, and their first live performance at a small-town music festival.