‘Corsage’ Director Marie Kreutzer on What She Learned About Empress Elisabeth of Austria During Her Research

‘Corsage’ Director Marie Kreutzer on What She Learned About Empress Elisabeth of Austria During Her Research

In IFC Films’ Corsage, Vicky Krieps stars as Empress Elisabeth of Austria (known affectionately as Sisi) during a particular life crisis: middle age. After turning 40, the celebrated beauty finds herself fading — at least, she’s convinced as much. With her children grown and her relationship with Emperor Franz Joseph I threatened by her indifference to royal obligations, the disaffected royal becomes bored with her life, wanting nothing more than to hide away from the public that still watches her every move as if she were a 19th century influencer.

Marie Kreutzer

Marie Kreutzer

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Marie Kreutzer, writer-director, creates a humorous biopic that combines the stoicism and drama of a classic costume drama with modern twists. The soundtrack includes anachronistic songs such as “As Tears Go By”, a chamber version by the Rolling Stones and vulgar hand gestures. The film also plays fast and loose with historical accuracy; rather than a traditional biography, Corsage looks at a brief period in Elisabeth’s reign with a feminist revisionism that suggests a different end to her life (the real empress was assassinated in 1898 at the age of 60).

Kreutzer, a Vienna-based director, took advantage of her close proximity to the empress’ home grounds and often visited the former Imperial Palace solo tours during the pandemic. Director: “I don’t believe in ghosts, but I always felt that [returning to there] might affect my story .”

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She did discover a woman with many idiosyncracies, inconsistencies and complexities. This added to the complexity of the character, which Krieps played with humor and heart. Kreutzer spoke to THR to discuss her inspirations and the ways she imagined her life.

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 continued to return to the Sisi Museum to create the film, which she developed during the pandemic. Kreutzer says the interiors are “beautiful, wide, and golden”. However, the windows overlook modern corporate buildings and a graveyard, making the palatial setting feel more like a prison. Kreutzer adds that “none of these spaces is cozy.” Kreutzer says, “I found it so depressing to be in these beautiful rooms and not [see anything] outside.” The iron bed of the empress, which she would take with her across Europe, still resides there.

PORTRAITS OF SISI

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 official portraits depicting the empress are grand and regal, just as one would expect from European royalty. Kreutzer was attracted to “the types of images not used on the covers or in souvenir shops,” but which alluded to Elisabeth’s sadness and longing. Corsage is an antidote for this type of classic royal portraiture.

PANTONE PASTEL LILAC

PANTONE PASTEL LILAC Lilac was the empress’ favorite color, and during her time lilac ink was fashionable and expensive — she even decorated a castle in Hungary entirely in the color. (In the image on the left, Elisabeth is smoking a lilac cigarette.) Kreutzer says it was a challenge to find the right shade for the film: “Personally, I like it when it’s not too pinkish — a little more gray or blue.”

Pantone Pastel Lilac

COURTESY OF BRAND

The empress loved lilac, and during her time, lilac ink became fashionable and costly. She even decorated a castle in Hungary entirely with the color. (The image to the left shows Elisabeth smoking a lilac pipe. Kreutzer said it was difficult to find the right color for the film. “Personally, I like it when the color is not too pinkish — a little 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, 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. She says, “It has such raw quality.” “When you think about an empress, all you can think of is 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

Kreutzer says, “I listen to a lot music when I’m writing.” He also mentions that “Italy” by Soap&Skin (Austrian artist Anja Plaschg), from the album From gas to solid / You are My Friend was a major source for inspiration. “This song came up while I was shuffleing, and it made me realize what the ending should be.” The track plays over the movie’s final minutes.

This story first appeared in a December issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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