Corsage, the magnificent film about Empress Sissi of Austria by Marie Kreutzer
Marie Kreutzer returns with an exquisite film about Empress Sissi, excellently played by Vicky Krieps, who won the Best Actress award both at the Cannes Film Festival (where the film was also nominated), as well as at the Chicago International Film Festival, at the Sarajevo Film Festival and at the Montclair Film Festival, confirming her status as one of the most popular European actresses of the moment.
The film is a coproduction between Film AG Produktion from Austria, Komplizen Film from Germany, Luxemburg’s Samsa Film and France´s Kazak Productions. To date, it has been awarded “Best Film” at the London Film Festival, it has been nominated as “Best International Film” at the Spirit Awards and at the EFA, and as if this weren’t enough, it has been selected to represent Austria at the next Academy awards, becoming one of the favourites.
On this occasion, Kreutzer projects a somewhat free version of the life of Elisabeth, the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary in which the empress who was popularly known as Sissi is forty, the age of an old woman for the standards of that time. Due to the rigid nature of her surroundings, dominated by the archaic and unfair rules of the strict and ultra conservative courts of the Habsburgs, she is in the middle of a crisis and feels suffocated as well as terribly unhappy.
“In this biopic, Sissi is already mature and fed up with playing the role of the perfect submissive consort.”
“Corsage” (called “La emperatriz rebelde” in Spain, “the rebel empress”) shows how the empress lived, carrying out strict fasting due to the obsession at the time with being beautiful, thin and having a youthful appearance. This implied having to follow a very strict diet, having to do a lot of exercise, putting up with hours and hours of hairstyling to be able to put up with very heavy hairdos, and to top it all, having to be submitted to constant waist measurements to ensure she was doing it right. A total ordeal.
A feminist and contemporary biopic
“Corsage” is also a defence of feminism, that reflects the existing patriarchy at a certain point in history, where the differences between men and women were enormous, and the alternatives to not obeying and stepping away from what was expected implied ending up in a psychiatric institution, as is seen in the film, or being ostracised or cut off from society, among other misfortunes.
Also, it’s important to highlight Kreutzer’s role in raising awareness as she takes us under Elizabeth’s skin so we can empathise with her reality, her pain and sadness as she feels bound to maintaining a spotless appearance, as well as to the duties and obligations that women of her lineage are meticulously assigned.Because we cannot forget that many of the expectations Sissi had to fight against continue to be imposed on women today. To be beautiful continues to be considered the most important and valuable feature in a woman, and that means that, although things are being done to change the paradigm, unfortunately historic progress has not changed that. And still today, and after all these years, women continue to be considered less valuable if they are overweight or older.
A rebel with a cause
Without wanting to give away any spoilers, the only thing we will say is that this Sissi is tired of the rigid protocol and is relegated to a subordinate role where her husband, Franz Joseph, is who decides everything and she is a mere accessory. That’s why she goes on an inward personal journey in search of another life, where she will seek to feel wanted, as well as to connect with everything that makes her happy such as nature, travelling, her dogs, horse-riding, swimming, dancing…
“This Elisabeth decides to rebel against the status quo.”
In this atmosphere of desolation in which she finds herself, there are at least three people that act almost as lifesavers: On the one hand, there is her son Rudolf; on the other, her lover, Bay Middleton, a horseracing jockey with whom she connects on every level; her assistant Ida Ferenczy, friend and confidante with whom she feels loved for herself just the way she is; and, of course, her first cousin Ludwig II, King of Bavaria, nicknamed the Mad King, with whom she escapes her reality, has fun and is herself. They both have memorable scenes in the film.
A beautiful portrayal of an ordeal
Another of Kreutzer’s victories is to have shone a light on a Sissi who is empowered but also tormented by her past, her present and even her potential future, and yet still manages to give free rein to some of her desires, even if that brings conflict.
She also manages to portray all those moments and thoughts with sublime finesse, making us feel a great connection with the personality of a woman who is apparently fragile, a fun, intelligent woman, a lover of all artistic expressions, with an iron will, but who is also melancholic, unstable and extremely sensitive but who found herself trapped by a certain moment in time and her circumstances.
An exquisite soundtrack and excellent photography
The soundtrack fascinated us, it is signed by Camille, although other artists participated in the Soundtrack. We listen to this song on loop.
On more than one occasion, you will be astounded by the excellent photography by Judith Kaufmann. Because the film production has looked after every detail to the extreme, something that is also apparent in the beautiful costumes.
We’ll say no more, we can only encourage you to see it and recommend you go the cinema to watch it, it’s a real gem!
“Corsage reflects someone’s courage to stop being who they are at all costs”
The best part:
Although Marie Kreutzer has her own style, we couldn’t avoid spotting glimpses of films by other directors that we really admire: Yorgos Lanthimos, Sofia Coppola or Céline Sciamma.
The soundtrack and photography as we mentioned are extraordinary.
The performance by Vicky Krieps, who has a strong resemblance to Florence Welch from Florence and the machine, demonstrates, for the almost two hours that the film lasts, that the Sissi that Marie Kreutzer has brought to the big screen and that she has recreated is absolutely magnificent.
It’s a different story and far removed from the idea that we all had in mind regarding such a well-known personality. Because although this Sissi is a period role, she is closer to a modern-day woman than one of her time.
We were also captivated by the background and the way in which it portrays her escape from herself to the very last consequences.
“Disappearing was also a desperate attempt by Elisabeth to take control of herself.” M. Kreutzer
The worst part:
That we’ve already watched it. The story from the Austrian director’s perspective is so interesting that it would be worth contemplating the possibility of creating a series from it.
Check cinema showtimes.
(*) Cover photo and slider 6 by Felix Vratny · fixed photo slider 1: Film Ag and 2 and slider 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11: Robert Brandstaetter · slider 2 and 3: Ricardo Vaz Palma, slider 10 and vertical photo: Anna Krieps.
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