Opening 7 Jul 2022
The iconic Sissi trilogy shown every Christmas on German television, directed by Ernst Marischka beginning in 1955, focuses on the early years of the Sissi, the Empress Elizabeth of Austria (Romy Schneider). This royal fairytale vividly comes alive filled with intrigue when the young Elizabeth catches the eye of Franz Joseph Emperor of Austria (Karl Heinz Böhm) who is determined to marry her. The popular trilogy has been the standard view of Sissi, but director Marie Kreutzer has decided to take the reins in her hands guiding us down a different path in Corsage. This story reveals a more contemporary view of a wild, strong-headed woman born in the wrong century. The title alone shows us a female figure struggling to be tied into a corset (corsage in French). It’s painful to watch her demands to her handmaid to pull the strings of this fabricated contraption as tightly as possible until her measurements are exactly perfect even though she can hardly breathe. On the flip side, we see a woman mounting a giant war horse and racing wildly through the countryside.
The Christmas season begins in the year 1877, which happens to also coincide with Empress Elizabeth of Austria’s (Vicky Krieps) birthday. Now turning 40, Empress Elizabeth becomes aware of the psychological battlefield surrounding her. Beauty, youth, and her position in the court are just a few of the themes that become a daily obsession leading to severe and damaging consequences. Her obsessive controlling over every part of her life is at first admired, but later it becomes more surreal and even disturbing. At the large gatherings she watches others eat and drink merrily while she remains self-composed drinking water and eating nothing. Her physical strength has been a gift where she seems to be able to outdo every man in her life, but is this a gift or a curse? At court, who will be her ally or even understand her? Will her husband, handmaids, or even her child understand her dilemma? Kreutzer creates a complex surrealistic film with modern English songs and moves beyond the boundaries of a time period to bring a new definition to the character of Empress Elizabeth. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)