At IFC Films’ Corset, Vicky Krieps stars as Empress Elisabeth of Austria (affectionately known as Sisi) during a particular life crisis: midlife. After her 40th birthday, the celebrated beauty is fading — at least, she’s convinced of that. With their children grown and their relationship with Emperor Franz Joseph I threatened by his indifference to royal obligations, the disgruntled royal is bored with their lives and wants nothing more than to hide from the public who still watches their every move as if they were a 19th century Influencer.
Writer-director Marie Kreutzer’s irreverent biopic blends the stoicism of a classic period drama with postmodern twists, incorporating anachronistic songs (a chamber version of the Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By” is heard on the soundtrack). and vulgar hand gestures nowadays. . The movie also plays fast and loose with historical accuracy; instead of a traditional biography, Corset analyzes a brief period of Elizabeth’s reign with a feminist revisionism that suggests a different ending to her life (the real empress was assassinated in 1898 at the age of 60).
Vienna-based Kreutzer took advantage of its proximity to the empress’s grounds, often visiting the former Imperial Palace on solo tours during the pandemic. “I don’t believe in ghosts,” says the director, “but I always had the feeling that [returning there] could influence my story.”
What he found during his research was a woman full of idiosyncrasies and inconsistencies, all of which added to the complexities of the character, played with wit and pathos by Krieps. Kreutzer spoke with THR about what inspired her version of the empress as a person and how she envisioned the ways she would design her life.
THE SISI MUSEUM
As Marie Kreutzer developed the film during the pandemic, she kept returning to the Sisi Museum, dedicated to the Empress’s private home. Interiors are “beautiful and spacious and golden,” says Kreutzer, but windows face modern corporate buildings or a graveyard, turning the palatial setting into something more prison-like. “None of these spaces are welcoming,” adds Kreutzer. I thought it was so depressing to sit in these beautiful rooms and see nothing [beautiful outside].” The Empress’s iron bed, with which she would travel across Europe, still resides there.
The official portraits of the empress are regal and grand like the one above, exactly what one would expect of European royalty. However, Kreutzer was drawn to “the kind of images that are not used in souvenir shops or on biographies covers” but that allude to Elisabeth’s sadness and longing. Corset it serves as an antidote to this type of classical royal portraiture.
PANTONE PASTEL LILAC
Lilac was the Empress’s favorite color, and during her time lilac ink was fashionable and expensive; she even decorated a castle in Hungary completely with that color. (In the image on the left, Elisabeth is smoking a purple cigarette.) Kreutzer says it was a challenge finding the right tone for the film: “Personally, I like it when it’s not too pink, a little more gray or blue. ”
An Austrian textile company founded in 1853, Leitner Leinen is, according to Kreutzer, “of very high quality, but it doesn’t look fancy or overpriced.” After touring the company’s factory on vacation, the director envisioned linen as Elisabeth’s favorite fabric. “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.
SOAP AND SKIN
“I always listen to a lot of music when I write,” 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 (below), was an important source of inspiration. “This song came up in random mode and I realized what the ending of the movie should be.” In fact, the track plays in the final moments of the film.
This story first appeared in a December standalone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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