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Corsage (15)

Cast: Colin Morgan, Vicky Krieps, Finnegan Oldfield, Florian Teichtmeister
Genre: Drama
Author(s): Marie Kreutzer
Director: Marie Kreutzer
Release Date: 26/12/2022 (selected cinemas)
Running Time: 114mins
Country: Aus/Lux/Ger/Fr
Year: 2022

In 1877 Vienna, Empress Elisabeth of Austria lingers in melancholy in a separate wing to her husband Emperor Franz Joseph I, perpetually at the mercy of gossip-mongering newspapers that fixate on her appearance. Tightly corseted by societal expectations that dictate how a woman should behave, the empress travels to Northamptonshire in the spring of 1878 to visit her sister and she risks scurrilous rumours by savouring a simmering flirtation with riding instructor Bay.


LondonNet Film Review

Corsage (15) Film Review from LondonNet

A woman’s worth is measured by her beauty in writer-director Marie Kreutzer’s unromanticised character study of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, which dramatises a turbulent period when the noblewoman became profoundly aware of the ravages of time. “At the age of 40, a person begins to disperse and fade, darkening like a cloud,” she ruminates sombrely in voiceover, barely allowing food to pass her lips at formal dinners where impeccably dressed guests chirrup about the media’s infatuation with Her Majesty. Parallels to Princess Diana are inevitable…

Kreutzer’s script doesn’t slavishly curry favour or sympathy for Elisabeth. She is occasionally unkind with words and impulsive, dangerously so when the empress hauls her young daughter out of bed in the dead of night for a horseback ride that leaves the girl battling a fever. “I don’t want you to pass on your recklessness to our child,” seethes the emperor. Vicky Krieps is beguiling in the lead role, delivering a nuanced performance that paints Elisabeth as both a victim of her suffocating times and her own worst enemy. She glides serenely through impeccably dressed sets like a porcelain doll who might break at any moment, hanging on fleeting compliments about her countenance as validation of her self-destructive behaviour.

In 1877 Vienna, Empress Elisabeth (Krieps) lingers in melancholy in a separate wing to her husband Emperor Franz Joseph I (Florian Teichtmeister), perpetually at the mercy of gossip-mongering newspapers that fixate on her appearance. Tightly corseted by societal expectations that dictate how a woman should behave, the empress stands silently as ladies in waiting meticulously document daily fluctuations in weight, fuelling a corrosive sense of self-worth based on her waist size. The royal palace is devoid of joy. One chamber is a shrine to the couple’s daughter Sophie, who died at the age of two.

Stifled by the Habsburg court, Elisabeth travels to Northamptonshire in the spring of 1878 to visit her sister in the company of her son Crown Prince Rudolf (Aaron Friesz) and daughter Valerie (Rosa Hajjaj). The Empress craves affection and she risks more scurrilous rumours by savouring a simmering flirtation with riding instructor Bay (Colin Morgan). “You abandon yourself to every whim without considering your position,” remonstrates her son, who will inherit the throne and his mother’s legacy.

Corsage is a richly textured portrait of a woman who was ahead of her time but all too familiar in a modern era that filters so-called reality for rabid consumption on social media. Krieps effortlessly embraces the script’s multiple languages, gelling with female co-stars to embolden the bonds of sisterly solidarity between Elisabeth and clucky courtiers, who were her confidants. French singer-songwriter Camille’s anachronistic soundtrack is hauntingly seductive, especially the song “She Was”, delivered in a breathless style reminiscent of Billie Eilish.

– Jo Planter


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