Critique of the bra: Enough of Sissi, now here comes Elisabeth

Empress Elizabeth aka Sisi (1837-1898) is more popular than she has been for a long time. After whole generations have grown up with Roma Schneider’s image as the sweet, radiant smile empress in Ernst Marischka’s iconic 1950s films “Sissi”, several projects are now under preparation that will give a new perspective to our romantic view of history. character. After RTL from “Sisi”, Netflix also plans to “Empress” about the famous monarch. Frauke Finsterwalder shoots for the cinema “Sisi i ja”, in which he tells a story from the point of view of a lady of the empress’s court with the star of “Toni Erdmann” Sandra Hüller in the lead role. Austrian Marie Kreutzer (“The Earth Under Your Feet”) also chooses an exciting perspective for herself “corset“:

Her Elisabeth is not a very young “Sissi” from the collective memory of pop culture, but a consummate 40-year-old woman – and being so old at the end of the 19th century is in itself almost a scandal, as her court doctor Elisabeth puts it bluntly: But 40 is an average the lifespan of many women at the time – but this Elisabeth (brilliantly played by “Silk Thread” star Vicky Krieps) is obviously not the woman of the people of Kreutzer’s drama, which is worth seeing, even if in some places too glamorous.

Elisabeth (Vicky Krieps) not only smokes like a chimney, but also shows her middle finger in anger …

As Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, she is extremely privileged, but at the same time she is under tremendous pressure, as both her husband, Emperor Franz Joseph (Florian Teichtmeister), and people expect physical perfection and beauty in its purest form. Neither their opinion nor their needs are interesting. The fact that her guests on her 40th birthday, which the Empress is clearly suffering, sing not only “she will live up high” but also “she will remain beautiful” makes it clear what role the monarch’s wife plays. And so Elisabeth works hard every day to live up to the ideal of beauty that is set for her. She wants nothing more than to break free from this social corset …

In the first scene of “Bra”, Elisabeth is immersed in the bathtub while her maids stop time. A well-trained empress can hold her breath for a minute and eleven seconds, which the servants note with admiration. From the very beginning, two threads are established that run through the biography of Marie Kreutzer, deliberately historically imprecise and repeatedly interrupted by modern elements such as pop songs: Elisabeth Vicky Krieps is hungry for recognition, a narcissist who wants to break away the admiration on which her confidence depends himself – and at the same time he wants, like in a bathtub, to be able to immerse himself in his life, and not constantly be the center of attention, in which society complains about the slightest rise of the monarch in tears of weight and wrinkles.

Body shaming in the 19th century

From the very beginning you feel with the subtle Elisabeth Vicky Krieps, who wants to be admired not only for her appearance (although she needs this approval as much as she despises her). Instead, she also wants to play a political role that Emperor Franz-Joseph has consistently denied her. How he directs the kingdom is to represent: “That’s why I chose you, that’s why you are here.

Over and over again, Marie Kreutzer shows her heroine that she is exercising, starving (two waffle-thin slices of orange for dinner, no more) and allows her to comment harshly about what expectations are placed on her above life. The illustration is too clear in some places. Then Elisabeth is placed in a room that keeps getting smaller and weighs down on her. Or, in another scene, she is shown pregnant with meaning as she looks at a woman locked in a cage in an insane asylum.

Emperor Franz Joseph (Florian Teichtmeister) sees only one task for his wife: representation (i.e. to look nice and otherwise shut up).

With such photos, you do not need to additionally emphasize the pressure and the desire to break away. After all, you just have to look at Vicky Krieps’ face to feel the weight as well as the anger her Elisabeth carries with her. But Krieps does not target Elisabeth as a suffering woman, much less as a victim. Time and time again, the compulsive empress, who, thanks to Kreutzer’s artistic freedom, sometimes swears and shows her middle finger, also exudes wit and love for life, especially when she can leave the imperial court and go on her beloved journeys, where she sometimes flirts with a riding instructor admitted by her. At the same time, it can be ice cold when it comes to meeting your needs when no one else does. He even forbids his favorite maid to marry her so that she can still be around:Only you love me as I am.

At the end, Marie Kreutzer gains more and more freedom with her historical hero, allowing her to fully experience her rebellion and desperation, and even change her fate. It is a wise move to make “Bra” ultimately not only a film about Empress Elizabeth, but also a personally and time-independent portrait of a woman trying to fit into an ideal image that, to some extent, even poses. himself, but at the same time he wants to break with expectations and go his own way.

Conclusion: Vicky Krieps is great as Empress Elisabeth, far from any Sisi stereotype, even though Marie Kreutzer’s generally strong and imaginative staging is a bit too striking in some places.

We saw Corsage at the Cannes Film Festival in 2022, where it was shown in the Un Certain Regard section.

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