“corset”. Marie Kreutzer and the posthumous liberation of the Empress

Vienna, 1877. The 40-year-old Elizabeth, Empress of Austria-Hungary, fought stubbornly to preserve her distinctive image. She hates pressure weighing on her and yet craves compliments, a pathetic alternative to unfulfilled desires.

In the feminist historical drama Korsage, director Marie Kreutzer unveils theatrical beauty as a self-destructive form of the exercise of power. Layer by layer, Kreutzer pierces the hidden inner life of her hero between the longing for death and the rebellious desire for freedom. Sometimes fantasy replaces reality, so the king does not hesitate to show the middle finger in front of the gentle community at dinner.

Filled with malice, the newspapers lurk for signs of decline or disease in the much admired wife (the distinguished Vicky Krebs) of Emperor Franz Joseph (Florian Techmeister). Elizabeth, nicknamed Sisi, fears old age and the associated loss of status. Beauty as a goal? Days of meaningless pass, collected by self-imposed dictates of strict diets and hard workouts. The first thing the maids have to do in the morning is measure her waist, and Sisi sees any weight gain as a personal insult, and also makes her corset tighter. Luxuriously braided hair requires hours of grooming each day, such a narcissistic self-styled style blocks any escape route.

The daring knight is a woman full of contradictions, sad and capricious, disciplined and anxious at the same time. When celebrations in public become too much for her, she subtly faints. Her control of her body is admirable, her self-restraint is less, she whispers to her servants, demands absolute loyalty, and even prevents her favorite maid from marrying: “You only love me as I am.” The happiness of others seems superfluous and intolerable. Franz Joseph does not appreciate interference in politics, repeatedly accusing his wife of being responsible for the turmoil in the country with her commitment: “You see what Hungary has brought us.”

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From now on, the Empress must focus on representative duties. She is lonely, very lonely. Had it not been for the Austrian director and screenwriter Marie Kreutzer (Der Boden unter den Fussen, 2019), the historical framework would have broken, and so Elizabeth was allowed to re-create her legend, based on Kris Kristofferson’s dream “Help Me Make Through the Night”. dance. But the hero’s world remains hostile and cold. The little daughter is alien to this irrepressible desire for freedom, and the child reacts with disapproval, has internalized the rules of the court, and scolds the mother. She exchanges ideas informally and, being sarcastic, can be a little frivolous only in the presence of her cousin, Ludwig II, King of Bavaria (Manuel Ruby), and also finds what is going on in court somewhat ridiculous, yet Ludwig surrenders and travels under Pressure from the emperor who doesn’t appreciate having an unorthodox cousin.

The beginning of the movie shows Elizabeth in the bathtub, holding her breath underwater, and two maids stopping time. Water is more than just an aesthetic leitmotif. When the Guardian disappears outside into the green sparkling water with an elegant leap, you believe you can feel the apparent weightlessness under the water, the escape, the freedom, the desire to submerge, and dissolve. Ludwig will tell her later: “I forbid you to drown yourself in the lake. It is mine.” Elizabeth prefers the sea and we think the end of the ‘Korsage’, Vienna Hofburg seems oppressive, cold, repulsive, there is no life for a woman as delicate and fragile as Sisi, substitutes for concrete Armed with a dark scary golden cage of brocade. Here too fantasy breaks reality, making it porous for comparison with contemporary compulsions and rituals, the resemblance is disturbing. Cell bars continue to appear, Elizabeth’s special interest is psychiatry, and visits to dispensaries are mandatory. A gracious gesture to the patient who praised her, despair then, as now, symbolized the screaming patient, who was struggling despite her limitations and confinement in a tight cage.

Elizabeth is drawn to faraway places, and reluctantly stays in Vienna for Christmas. We are involuntarily reminded of Pablo Larren and Spencer’s fantastic horror farce, which he described as a “legend based on a true tragedy.” Chilean director, British screenwriter and Stephen Knight edited Mrs. D (Kirsten Stewart) from her iconic image. Finally, Diana, Princess of Wales, can be out of character, no longer having to compete for sympathy, and can be stubborn, unfair, flirtatious, angry, desperate, and living her fears. Failure is like a woman of flesh and blood. It brings the world of fairy tales you hate turned upside down and more delusional than ever. The scarecrow on the side of the road becomes a symbol of the search for identity. And Marie Kreutzer goes one step further, and getting rid of her supposed political correctness unlocks an unexpected freedom for Elizabeth. The images (Camera: Judith Kaufman) are of elegant, sometimes semi-fragile beauty, far from any melodramatic or aesthetic pomp, the idea for the film came from by Vicki Krebs (“The Silken Thread”, 2017).

At the estate of Earl Spencer (Rafael Nicholas) in Northamptonshire, England, Elizabeth finally reunites with her favorite horse Fire, along with Pae Middleton, the famous Scottish-born hunter (Colin Morgan), jogging and laughing at the gathering. At the table, the flirt was met with a great disapproval by her sister Martha and her son Rudolph. Bai admits his deep sympathy for her, but she must inevitably reject him. Emperor Franz Joseph, a humble figure with false whiskers, naturally has a little lover who no one criticizes. The Empress falls while riding, is seriously injured and shot dead at the scene. Elizabeth falls into a deep depression, and realizes in Vienna that it is in vain to woo her husband. Shortly thereafter, she jumped out of the fencing hall window, only breaking her leg. In desperation, she withdraws more and more from her private life, appears only in public wearing a headscarf, travels a lot and has a weakness for formal occasions. She refuses to paint it, and recommends that artists use the images found as evidence.

“It was always important for me to know the rules in order to break them,” the manager explains. “I’ve researched extensively at this point in Elizabeth’s life, but took a lot of liberties in terms of content and form when telling the story of this movie. Nothing was said or shown ‘wrong’ to us here, they were all technical decisions. I’ve never been interested in making a movie. A decent and well-behaved biography. But of course the facts – that Elizabeth has not shown her face since a certain age – made this story, this plot develop in me. It is very exciting that this woman practically disappeared before everyone’s eyes!” Something finally broke out in Elizabeth As a result of the rejection of her husband and young daughter Valerie. She cuts her long hair and injects the heroin that the court doctor prescribed to her. From now on, she apparently began to bid her farewell, step by step, sleep with her husband for the last time, meet Anna Nahovsky and solemnly entrust her to be his mistress. With big bites she eats a cream cake with relish, by her standards an act of rebellion.

The pain of not sticking to the iconic image is reflected in the face of the protagonist. We rarely see them really at ease, in fact only with their dogs. Elizabeth redefined the role of the Empress, however, like countless women after her, she fell into a trap when, for lack of alternatives, she attempted to escape faltering social structures by portraying herself as her beauty. In the movie we physically feel the tightness of the corset, leaving little room for breathing. Some critics describe her as “challengely childish,” and it might be an untrained challenge for a child, but her sadness robs her of any kind of lightness and innocence. Kreutzer and Krieps gave the Empress after her death what she was never allowed to smoke shamelessly in public, show her middle finger, cut her hair, and jump in front of the cinematographer long before the Lumiere brothers were invented. And here in the movie she doesn’t have to be shot by an anarchist in the end, she can decide her life and death, she can finally be herself.


Original title: Corsage

Director and script: Marie Kreutzer

Actors: Vicki Krebs, Florian Techmeister, Katharina Lorenz, Manuel Rubin

Duration: 113 minutes

Production country: Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, France

Theatrical release: July 7, 2022

Distribution: Film Distribution

Photos, press materials and trailer: Copyright Alamode Film Distribution

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