The Empress Elisabeth is trapped, cinched by the titular garment as tightly as she is stuck in her very public role and a loveless marriage. The audience, too, is held captive, mesmerised by the bold and dynamic performance of Vicky Krieps.
Marie Kreutzer is establishing a place as one of Austria’s more consistent directorial talents. Her latest film, which had its première at Cannes in 2022, explores relationships, a theme shared with past features Gruber is Leaving (2015) and The Fatherless (2011). In Corsage, Kreutzer reunites with Krieps, who played the lead role in her comedy We Used to Be Cool (2016).
Corsage joins a recent wave of portrayals of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, queen of Hungary, known as ‘Sisi’ (1837–98). A Netflix series, The Empress, was released last year, following hot on the heels of the 2021 miniseries Sisi, produced by Story House Pictures. It is hard to be sure what’s at the root of this surge of interest, but it was apparently Krieps herself who suggested the idea to Kreutzer. Though drawing inspiration from the empress’s historical record, Kreutzer seems determined to give contemporary relevance to ‘her Elisabeth’. Corsage doesn’t wish to merely recount a biography: instead it offers an intimate character study. Elements from Elisabeth’s life and mythology are woven with a modern depiction of a forty-year-old woman struggling against the confines of gender, title, and public scrutiny.