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CORSAGE (2022, AUT) – 7/10

The Austrian Empress Elizabeth, better known as Sissi, is primarily remembered from films from the fifties when she was portrayed by the young Romy Schneider. They were films that completely romanticized the idea of ​​a young and beautiful empress of perhaps the largest European state at the time. Her role at that time was to be a beautiful and perfect pendant to her husband, first the heir to the throne, then the emperor Franz Joseph, and the fictionalized biography of the empress by the Austrian filmmaker Marie Kreutzer (perhaps an even better predecessor of The Ground Beneath My Feet) brings a completely different approach treat this topic and this historical figure. Empress Elizabeth performed by the excellent Luxembourgian Vicky Krieps, whom we noticed back in Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” when she performed alongside the incomparable Daniel Day – Lewis is actually a modern, almost present-day woman, completely dissatisfied with her role and what the title has brought her.

Kreutzer brings a modernist approach with an undisguised feminist flair, and “Corsage” is also a film full of anachronisms, such as the depressed and suicidal empress listening to the Rolling Stones, getting tattoos, riding on a ferry or a tractor. The story begins on Christmas 1877, when the empress turned 40 and everyone around her began to consider her old. Everyone behind her back is talking about how she has grown old, worn out and is no longer even a shadow of the young beauty that Franz Joseph proudly showed off to everyone. But with the arrival of her forties, the empress seemed to be completely fed up with listening and working all the time as men tell her, who also don’t find it easy.


Although the situation in Europe is quite tense, the people make fun of Francis Joseph because his wife has gray hair and may have gained a little weight, and even Elizabeth herself will start looking for a young mistress for her husband. The empress, who got married when she was 16, is already over the head of that palace life under the glass bell and the fact that she is still there only to perform some ceremonial duties. She will thus decide on several trips outside of Vienna, first to England and then to her native Bavaria, where she will meet some people from her youth, and rumors that the empress also has a lover will especially bother her son and the heir to the throne. “Corsage” reminded me a little of another recent stylized modernist fictionalized biography of an unfortunate princess, Pablo Larrain’s “Spencer” in which the psychology of the English Princess Diana is very similar to that of her Austrian counterpart.


This film brings an interesting twist compared to classic biographical films about that idle European aristocracy, which we have been able to see too many of in recent decades. It is the film that questions the mythology of the royal life from the fairy tale and brings a completely different view from the usual one, and we meet the empress who is literally sick of such a life. A life that suffocates her like those corsets they put on her to make her look as thin as possible, even though she is too thin by herself. It is also a film with a strong feminist touch, because in her time the empress certainly could not speak about what may have oppressed her and what bothered her, but Kreuzer now gives her a voice. And it raises the question of whether that life was really so fairy-tale and how a modern, self-aware woman of today would react and behave if she found herself in a similar situation as Sissi.

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Would she be silent and do everything that is asked and demanded of her in that function or would she behave the way the empress behaves in “Corsage”? Rebellious, headstrong, yet aware of his role and position in society. This unusual drama premiered in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes festival, where the truly excellent Krieps won the award for best actress. “Corsage” then had a great festival life, and not only did Austria highlight this film as its candidate for the Oscar in the category of the best film outside the English-speaking region, but “Corsage” was also nominated for European film of the year, Kreuzer for director, and Krieps was chosen as the European actress of the year.