Corsage Film Review: Who Gives The Queen New Clothes In A Surprising Retelling of The ‘Sissy’ Legend?

Corsage Film Review: The new film by Austrian filmmaker Marie Kreutzer imagines the domestic life of the Hapsburg Empress Elizabeth of Austria in the year of her 40th birthday (1877), focusing on issues of royalty and the pedestal-prison of women. The kaiserin, like Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette and Pablo Larran’s Princess Diana, is a reclusive figure who enjoys a life of luxury despite being treated like a patron.

The film also depicts scenes of the empress riding at the Northamptonshire estates of Diana’s ancestor, the fifth Earl Spencer, when she engages in a whimsical romance with her riding teacher. The film is mostly true to history, with the exception of a few details (such the inclusion of the song “Help Me Make It Through the Night” on the soundtrack and Elizabeth’s introduction to modern technologies like the cinema and heroin). But Kreutzer attributes the strain that started World War One in part to her political depression.

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Vicky Krieps does an outstanding job of portraying Elizabeth as a woman of mystery and sensuality, imperiousness and severity; a woman of passions and discontents who is met with cold hostility from the court and the family of her unfaithful husband Franz Joseph (Florian Teichtmeister), who she supports politically and personally because of her closeness to the cosmopolitan Hungarian Count Andrássy (Tamás Lengyel). Every day, Elizabeth has to fight a literal and figurative battle to fit into her corsage and get down to a scary 18 inches around the waist in order to appease the snickering Viennese attendants and authorities who impugn her Austrian loyalties while they body humiliate her.

Who Gives The Queen New Clothes In A Surprising Retelling of The ‘Sissy’ Legend?

Elizabeth sometimes visits hospitals and mental institutions dressed in violet and carrying violet parasols, violet cigarette cases, and violet chocolates. Only when she sees her dogs does she crack a genuine grin, and she is saddened when the horse that tossed her must be shot. She wears a black veil when she goes undercover in Vienna (to watch her husband’s mistress) and has an aide act as her at a formal function so she can shoot up in peace. She had to endure the indignity of being complimented for her unusual composure later on.

Elizabeth’s entire existence is hidden from view, and Kreutzer compares her fashion choices and way of living to a form of court mourning. In the film, she lives in a series of enormous, cold salons and dark dining rooms, seeking solace only in the toilets while undergoing a series of harmful weight-loss programmes.

Corsage Film Review
Corsage Film Review

She gallops alone through the European estates and is a lonely sight. She recalls her Bavarian father, who was an alcoholic and would drink seven tankards of beer in a single evening, leading her to believe that all adults spoke slurred after sundown.

It’s a study in rage, and the picture is stark and angular in many aspects. A thrillingly ferocious and uncompromising performance by Krieps. Kreutzer’s most recent film, 2019’s The Ground Beneath My Feet, featured the same perceptive understanding of how women are marginalised and limited by their achieved status. As far as Elizabeth is concerned, everything is connected.

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