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PRODUCTION / FUNDING Austria / Luxembourg / Germany / France

Marie Kreutzer is preparing a new film about Empress Sissi

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- Vicky Krieps leads the cast of Corsage, a co-production between Austria, Luxembourg, Germany and France

Marie Kreutzer is preparing a new film about Empress Sissi
Actress Vicky Krieps

Elisabeth de Wittelsbach, the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary who reigned for over 44 years as the spouse of Emperor Franz Joseph I, isn’t simply a major European personality from the second half of the 19th century. Owing to her beauty and rebellious spirit, "Sissi" has continually fuelled all manner of fantasies in popular culture. The murdered sovereign was glorified in film in the 1950s via Ernst Marischka’s trilogy, which revealed Romy Schneider to the world. A number of TV films ensued, which swiftly sank into oblivion, such as Xaver Schwarzenberger’s mini-series Sisi. Then, in 2012, on the occasion of the 175th anniversary of the sovereign’s birth, Kurt Mündl’s documentary Sisi… und ich erzähle euch die Wahrheit offered up a new and far less sanitised portrayal of Elisabeth of Austria, who some historians have described as incredibly selfish.

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It’s within the vein of this revisionist movement that Austrian director Marie Kreutzer is developing Corsage, a film which will home in on the second half of the sovereign’s life, which sees her at 40 years of age, trapped within her exaggerated fear of growing old. The filmmaker confesses wishing to draw a parallel between the current epoch where aging is something we constantly look to avoid. In this sense, "Corsage should take the form of a radical, modern film, not a fairy tale with a beautiful backdrop", Kreutzer insists. "A film about a rebel trapped within a rigid system, about a woman who bends the rules imposed upon her as far as she can, before eventually escaping them in the only way possible. Elisabeth is uncompromising. The film should be, too."

This will be the fifth feature film offered up by the director, following The Fatherless [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
(selected for the 2011 Berlinale’s Panorama line-up), Gruber Is Leaving [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
(2015), We Used to Be Cool [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
(2016) and The Ground Beneath My Feet [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Marie Kreutzer
film profile
]
(in competition in Berlin 2019).

Bolstered by a budget of €7,312,328, this four-party co-production involves Austria  (at a level of 55.57% via producer Alexander Glehr of Film AG), Luxembourg (23.46 % assumed by Bernard Michaux of Samsa Film) and minority stakeholders Germany (Komplizen Film) and France (Kazak Productions). Supported by Eurimages, the project has benefitted from various subsidies, including €635,000 from the Vienna Film Fund, as well as another worth €1,500,000 from Film Fund Luxembourg.

Indeed, the film is set to adopt a rather Luxembourgian air thanks to its lead actress Vicky Krieps. Born in the Grand Duchy, the star of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, who will soon be gracing the film poster of Hélier Cisterne’s brilliant movie Faithful (a political drama about the Algerian War), will portray the Empress in 1877, twenty or so years ahead of her assassination.

As a result of partial lockdown and an overall slowdown in business activities, filming was initially postponed and is now set to kick off in Vienna and the surrounding area in March 2021, before moving on to the Grand Duchy over the summer. Representing Samsa Film, who will be steering all aspects of audio post-production, producer Bernard Michaux voiced his enthusiasm: "I’m happy to be working with this gifted, interesting and subtle director who is known not only in her own country, Austria, but also throughout Europe and the world. I believe wholeheartedly in this powerful story, which explores some highly topical themes and is dazzlingly modern, despite being a period drama. And of course, it’s a real pleasure to find myself reunited with actress Vicky Krieps, whom I worked with on the short film X on a Map in 2009."

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