Corsage: Marie Kreutzer’s Singular Biopic of Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria (Cannes Fest 2022)

Kreutzer: Biopic of Austria’s Empress Elisabeth during Mid-Life Crisis

Kreutzer would visit the former Imperial Palace, to which she was close in proximity during her research, which influenced her story.

 

Marie Kreutzer
Marie Kreutzer JON KOPALOFF/GETTY IMAGES

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writer-director Marie Kreutzer’s irreverent biopic mixes classic costume drama with postmodern twists, incorporating anachronistic songs (the Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By” on the soundtrack).

The film also deviates from historical accuracy; rather than a traditional biography, Corsage looks at brief period in Elisabeth’s reign with feminist perspective.

The real empress was assassinated in 1898 at the age of 60.

The Vienna-based Kreutzer took advantage of her proximity to the empress’ grounds, visiting the former Imperial Palace during the pandemic. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” says the director, “but I always had the feeling that returning there might influence my story.”

Her research reveals a woman full of idiosyncracies and inconsistencies — all of which added to the complexities of the character, played with wit and pathos by Krieps.

THE SISI MUSEUM

THE SISI MUSEUM As Marie Kreutzer developed the film during the pandemic, she kept returning to the Sisi Museum, dedicated to the empress’ private living quarters. The interiors are “beautiful and wide and golden,” says Kreutzer, but the windows look out onto modern corporate buildings or a graveyard, turning the palatial setting into something more akin to a prison. “None of these spaces are cozy,” adds Kreutzer. “I thought it was so depressing to sit in these beautiful rooms and not see anything [beautiful outside].” The empress’ iron bed, which she would travel with across Europe, still resides there.
The Sisi Museum INSADCO PHOTOGRAPHY/ALAMY STOCK PHOTO

Marie Kreutzer developed the film during the pandemic, visiting the Sisi Museum, dedicated to the empress’ private quarters.

The interiors are “beautiful and wide and golden,” says Kreutzer, but the windows look out onto modern corporate buildings, turning the palatial setting into something akin to a prison. “None of these spaces are cozy,” adds Kreutzer. “I thought it was so depressing to sit in these beautiful rooms and not see anything beautiful outside.”

The empress’ iron bed, which she would travel with across Europe, still resides there.

PORTRAITS OF SISI The official portraits of the empress are regal and grand like the one above exactly what one would expect from European royalty. Yet Kreutzer was drawn to the kinds of images not used in souvenir shops or on the covers of biographies, but which allude to Elisabeth’s sadness and longing. Corsage serves as an antidote to this kind of classic royal portraiture.
Portraits of Sisi IMAGNO/GETTY IMAGES

The portraits of the empress are regal and grand like the one above. Yet Kreutzer was drawn to “images not used in souvenir shops or on the covers of biographies,” but which allude to Elisabeth’s sadness and longing.

Corsage serves as antidote to this kind of classic royal portraiture.

Lilac was the empress’ favorite color, and during her time lilac ink was fashionable and expensive–she decorated a castle in Hungary entirely in the color.

Kreutzer’s challenge was to find the right shade for the film: “I like it when it’s not too pinkish — a little more gray or blue.”

LEITNER LEINEN

LEITNER LEINEN An Austrian textile company founded in 1853, Leitner Leinen is, according to Kreutzer very high-quality, but it doesn’t look chic or too expensive. Having toured the company’s factory while on holiday, the director imagined linen as the preferred fabric for Elisabeth. It has such a raw quality, she says. When you think of an empress, you think of very shiny fabrics like silk or velvet. But linen is more practical.
Leitner Leinen COURTESY OF BRAND

An Austrian textile company founded in 1853, Leitner Leinen is “very high-quality, but it doesn’t look chic or expensive.” Having toured the company’s factory, the director imagined linen as the preferred fabric for Elisabeth. “It has such a raw quality, when you think of an empress, you think of very shiny fabrics like silk or velvet. But linen is more practical.”

SOAP&SKIN

SOAP and SKIN I always listen to a lot of music when I’m writing, says Kreutzer, adding that the song Italy by Soap&Skin Austrian artist Anja Plaschg, from the album From Gas to Solid You Are My Friend belo), was a major source of inspiration. This song came up on shuffle, and I realized what the ending of the film should be.” The track does indeed play over the movie’s final moments.
Soap&Skin COURTESY OF PIAS RECORDINGS

“I always listen to music when I’m writing,” says Kreutzer. The song “Italy” by Soap&Skin (Austrian artist Anja Plaschg), from the album From Gas to Solid / You Are My Friend, was major inspiration. “This song came up on shuffle, and I realized what the ending of the film should be.” The track plays over the movie’s final moments.