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Corsage - What We Know So Far

The genre of historical fiction has been getting a real workout at the movies for the past couple of years. Between Pablo Larraín picturing Diana, Princess of Wales hallucinating about swallowing her pearls, Baz Luhrmann charting the origins of Elvis Presley's dance moves to his reception of the Holy Spirit at a Black church, and Andrew Dominik fashioning conversations between Marilyn Monroe and her fetus, it seems that we're truly living in a golden age of filmmakers getting imaginative with their portraiture of iconic real-life figures.

Now, another fascinating historical character is being given the "artistic license" treatment, and it's one American audiences may not be quite so familiar with — which makes it all the more significant that she's getting this limelight shone on her. Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie in Bavaria, better known as Empress Elisabeth of Austria or even by her nickname Sisi, is arguably one of the most fascinating and eccentric monarchs to have ever lived. Raised in a relatively informal atmosphere in the Bavarian countryside, and thrust begrudgingly by marriage into the obligations of regal life, Elisabeth became famous all over Europe both for her ravishing beauty and for her unyielding refusal to conform to the expectations placed upon women by aristocratic society. It is this incredibly interesting figure that "Corsage," a new film co-produced by Austria, Luxembourg, Germany, and France (via Unifrance), takes as its focus, drawing both from historical records and — as Elisabeth herself might have wanted — from pure poetic imagination. Here's what we know about "Corsage."

When will Corsage be released?

The production of "Corsage" was originally announced on February 25, 2021, according to Screen Daily. The film, a co-production between several European countries, was then shot between March and July 2021 (via Crew United).

Just under a year later, "Corsage" had its world premiere on May 20 at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, where it played as part of the prestigious Un Certain Regard section, ultimately taking the section's best performance prize for its star Vicky Krieps, who shared the award with "Harka" actor Adam Bessa (via IMDb). That was only the beginning of a very fruitful film festival run for "Corsage." Following Cannes, the film also played at the Munich International Film Festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival, the Sarajevo Film Festival, the BFI London Film Festival, the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival, and the Busan International Film Festival, among many others (via IMDb). In North America, it made a fall season splash with much-touted bows at the Toronto and New York fests.

As for its commercial run, the film — which takes place in Austria and features primarily German dialogue — was released in Austria and Germany relatively early in the year, on July 7. It has since made its way to theaters in the Netherlands, Hungary, and Russia. American audiences, meanwhile, will get to see the film a bit later in the year, as IFC Films is bringing it stateside for a limited theatrical release on December 23 (per Variety).

What is the plot of Corsage?

"Corsage" is a historical drama film with a real-life major figure from Austrian history at its center, but it wouldn't be quite 100% accurate to describe it as a biopic. According to writer and director Marie Kreutzer, the film takes a relatively liberal approach to the life and times of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, with some plot elements being real and some being fictional; in Kreutzer's own words, "I find it interesting to move within facts, but then take what I needed and just forget the other stuff" (via The Upcoming).

Be that as it may, the story of "Corsage" follows Elisabeth in Bavaria, whose tenure as Austrian empress lasted between 1854 and 1898, throughout one particularly momentous year in her life: 1878, the year after she turned 40. Reduced to a political role of little consequence and faced with the increasing pressures placed on her, her body, and her image as a newly "old" woman in the dollhouse of monarchy, Elisabeth embarks on a journey of personal rediscovery while trying to maintain her commitment to her duties, all with the movements of late-19th-century Austro-Hungarian history as the backdrop. Inspired by the famously off-kilter spirit of its protagonist, the film doesn't conform to the stuffy typical formulas of historical biopics, instead letting Elisabeth's exploration of a new chapter in her life take the action in dashing, surprising, and often riotously comedic directions, complete with occasional "Marie Antoinette"-esque anachronisms (per Variety).

Who is starring in Corsage?

It's only natural that "Corsage" should largely function as a showcase for the actress playing Elisabeth of Austria, but that becomes even more of a given when you factor in the fact that the actress in question is Vicky Krieps.

Born in Luxembourg, Krieps has been active as an actress since 2008 and didn't take long to start appearing in films and on television series both American and European, with the 2014 German dramedy "The Chambermaid Lynn" having arguably been her first breakthrough in the Old Continent. But it was with 2017's "Phantom Thread," directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and co-starring Daniel Day-Lewis, that Krieps really announced herself to international audiences and captured the attention of filmmakers the world over. Her performance as the film's de-facto protagonist, the love-ridden and doggedly determined Alma Elson, became an immediate cinephile sensation, earning her endless praise and numerous awards. Since then, she has also crossed over into the Hollywood mainstream with films such as "Old" and "Beckett," but it was about time her transfixing charisma got its due in a proper star vehicle — which is just what "Corsage" is.

In addition to Krieps, "Corsage" also stars Florian Teichtmeister as Elisabeth's husband, Emperor Franz Joseph I, along with several other German, Austrian, and French actors — plus the Northern Irish Colin Morgan, who may be better known by English-speaking audiences due to his roles as Merlin on BBC One's "Merlin" and Leo Elster on Channel 4's "Humans."

Who is directing Corsage?

"Corsage" is directed by Austrian filmmaker Marie Kreutzer, who also wrote the screenplay. It is her fifth feature film, and her second to gain significant international attention; in 2019, she also made waves around the world as the director of "The Ground Beneath My Feet," a gripping psychological thriller about a hypercompetent business consultant whose life begins to unravel dramatically (via The Hollywood Reporter).

In interviews, Kreutzer has cited the complex character of Elisabeth of Austria as the main reason she was drawn to "Corsage" as a project. As she told Women and Hollywood, "When reading the biographies, letters, diaries, and so on, of Elisabeth, I sensed that her silent rebellion is a recurrent theme in her life ... She was a smoker when smoking was regarded as bad behavior for a woman, did not touch any food when forced to sit at official dinners, traveled the world whenever she could flea Vienna, built her own sports equipment, and went on extensive hikes or horse rides when being sporty or fit was not modern or important for anyone. She certainly lived in a golden cage and tried to expand her position's boundaries as far as she could."

She has also described the film's unique comedic tone as having come naturally to her, telling Cineuropa, "I think that most of my films are a mixture of heavy scenes and lighter scenes. I did a comedy once. But even in my very serious films, I like to create some laughter, too."

Is there a trailer for Corsage?

IFC Films has released an official trailer with English subtitles for "Corsage," and it's a doozy.

The trailer opens with Empress Elisabeth grinning uncomfortably as she and Emperor Franz Joseph are welcomed by an enormous party of men in formal attire after leaving their carriage; Elisabeth faints almost immediately, and the trailer then cuts to her irreverently explaining how fainting can be used strategically "at the right time."

Although that humorous moment sets the stage for the kind of figure Elisabeth is in the film, the rest of the trailer takes on a more serious, almost operatic tone. As Elisabeth finds herself more and more constrained by her position — with her husband straight-up telling her, "Your duty is merely to represent, that's what I chose you for, that's what you're here for" — the trailer charts her efforts to rebel in myriad different ways and grab a handful of life's possibilities. With pull quotes emphasizing the enormous acclaim bestowed upon both "Corsage" and its star, the editing emphasizes the rage and resolve in Vicky Krieps' performance, her various hairstyles throughout the film, and her character's indefatigable defiance — epitomized by the quote "A lion doesn't lose sleep over the opinion of sheep." Meanwhile, a handful of carefully-placed inserts hint at Elisabeth's frayed mental state at the time "Corsage" is set, and everything builds to a thunderous crescendo worthy of the lofty, genre-subverting ambitions widely identified by critics during the film's festival run.