“She scares me so much,” a maid says as Corsage begins and cuts to a girl submerged in bathwater. She is Empress Elisabeth of Austria and, when she rises, the 2 maids beside the bathtub give her conflicting accounts of how lengthy precisely she was in a position to maintain her breath. The fact does not matter to Elisabeth (Sissi for brief), simply because it does not matter to writer-director Marie Kreutzer. Corsage is predicated on the real-life Austrian empress, however past the characters within the movie, little else appears to be primarily based in reality, and what’s blends seamlessly with what is not in what seems like a deliberate effort to make the viewers query how these sorts of tales are instructed. Part revisionist historical past, half unconventional character examine, Corsage is carried by Vicky Krieps’ sensible efficiency and its willingness to buck style conventions in favor of a darkish and dreamy fairy story.
Corsage begins in December 1877 and tracks a yr within the lifetime of Elisabeth, 20 years earlier than her eventual assassination in 1898. Detached from her husband, Franz Joseph I (Florian Teichtmeister), Elisabeth solely appears involved along with her daughter Valerie (Rosa Hajjaj) and herself. It is the eve of her fortieth birthday, and she or he is clearly perturbed at rising older, discovering little disruptions the place she will be able to. At a celebration within the opening moments of the movie, Elisabeth feigns a fainting spell in entrance of the arrival committee. She flirts along with her secure boy and types a (presumably fictional) friendship with Louis Le Prince (Finnegan Oldfield), who is taken into account the Father of Cinematography. All of this, and extra, is a minor rebel towards growing old, towards the oppressive life she is pressured to reside, whilst historical past itself tries to meet up with her.
Krieps, whose star-making flip in Phantom Thread actually ought to have resulted in an Oscar, has chosen a slew of idiosyncratic initiatives as a substitute of ones which can be typical after a breakthrough function. From the M. Night Shyamalan oddity Old to Mia Hanson-Løve’s Bergman Island, Krieps has proven off an unimaginable knack for character works. She continues that right here, inhabiting Elisabeth in a approach that feels as whether it is reaching again via historical past whereas nonetheless being distinctly fashionable. Roles like these have allowed Krieps to carry out on her personal phrases, a top quality that she so clearly shares with the empress, albeit with completely different outcomes.
The remainder of the forged dutifully follows Krieps’ lead, from Florian Teichtmeister’s Franz I to Aaron Friesz because the Crown Prince Rudolf. The proven fact that they, nor any of the opposite facet characters, do not get a lot display screen time is intentional, even when it does really feel like we miss out on some key a part of why Elisabeth is the way in which she is. Some of her interactions with Franz work to rectify this, however it’s the liberty she so clearly feels with folks like Louis Le Prince or Bay Middleton (Colin Morgan) that present the facet that Kreutzer feels audiences should know. That Elisabeth’s son will get in the way in which of those relationships out of loyalty to a monarchy he is aware of is declining is only one unlucky circumstance of Elisabeth’s standing.
The ending of Corsage is its most divisive component, if solely as a result of it leans so drastically into the alternate historical past it depicts. Elisabeth could lastly get the liberty she needs, however its connection to what comes earlier than it feels tenuous. It is difficult to inform if the Empress’ decline is intentional on her half or a symptom of a bigger problem, the results of just a few completely different scenes that may veer into spoiler territory if revealed right here. The ambiguity feels intentional, however it does not precisely work when the thought of Elisabeth’s company has been toyed with all through Corsage.