Written and directed by Marie Kreutzer, a fictional account of one year in the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. On Christmas Eve 1877, Elisabeth, once idolized for her beauty, turns 40 and is officially deemed an old woman; she starts trying to maintain her public image. Starring: Vicky Krieps, Colin Morgan, Ivana Urban, Alma Hasun, Tamás Lengyel, Finnegan Oldfield, Jeanne Werner, Katharina Lorenz and Aaron Friesz.
There are two things for certain going into Corsage and those are beautiful costume work and a great performance from the immensely talented Vicky Krieps, who never disappoints. Realistically, those are also the two key elements with this film, as it entirely surrounds itself in the Empress’ (Krieps) personality and mental struggles, while following her changing fashions through the years. Krieps has an undeniable presence, no matter the role she fills the room with a beautiful depth, sympathy and genuine intrigue. With this particular portrayal she gets to use a few of the skills we’ve seen from her before and in an enjoyably regal way but it doesn’t feel as though she truly gets to take this one all the way.
Part of that is the writing, Corsage follows a journey which while as a whole is an interesting comment on the wasted intelligence and limited freedom of women in the 1800s, follows a quite simple pattern throughout. It tips its hat to scandal, rebellion and depression but seems as though it never ramps up to full steam. There’s a plot at work but it feels fairly thin, it’s so focused on Krieps’ character as a person it slightly forgets to expand and deepen. In the sense of mental health it does do a good job of exploring the degradation as she gets older and is more intensely underappreciated and undermined at every turn. However, it’s just missing something extra to add a larger variety and a more unexpected quality.
Another aspect which highlights that is the pacing, there’s a slightly offbeat quality to the way that the film progresses, it’s somehow both a leisurely and a quick pace. Visually it does a fantastic job of recreating the era but at the same time lacks that pop of colour or richness to embrace the opulence of it all. Although the editing work by Ulrike Kofler is extremely worth noting as it adds a great personality to the film. Aesthetically, it’s very consistent throughout which works but at the same time, given the evolution to the Empress, it would have been interesting to see it take on more of a loose or emotional touch to intensify the energy as time goes on. As the ending itself is particularly well done and leaves things with a great flourish. The score and use of music throughout can also feel a touch too modern, not quite fitting with the setting and era.
Corsage puts on display the dazzling talents of Vicky Krieps and beautifully allows her to do so with aplomb in both drama and costume. It dives straight into the eccentric and intricately detailed touches of the era. However, the story feels underwhelming, there’s some bubbling issues under the surface which see the light of day before the credits roll but it feels as though it was holding back for a significant amount of time. It’s shot with a gracefulness, the editing is smart and there’s a solid presence to it but there’s something missing, a larger charm or individuality to completely fulfil its potential.