At the back end of 2022, a few of our members got the opportunity to attend the Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF). Stanislava went down and watched 'Corsage' to give a review for those who could not make it themselves.
Written by Stanislava Boiarskaia
Warning: A mostly spoiler-free review with a marked spoiler paragraph at the end.
If you are a fan of historical fiction, then Corsage (directed by Marie Kreutzer) is a film to look out for. Following the later years of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth, it offers an unusual narrative within the “life of royalty” stories that we all know and love.
To start off, this movie is only for someone who is into the whole “no plot, just vibes” subcategory. I would even describe it as a character study of the real Empress Elisabeth. She is brooding, she hates her life, and she is too old for this crown. There is even a sort of witty humour in the way that she faces all of the comments thrown at her with a straight face.
Corsage also made me realise that I have never seen another film centred around an ageing Empress or Queen. Older women in historical fiction are usually portrayed as side characters, focusing on their role as mothers. While Elisabeth’s children were in this, the focus was entirely on her own struggles and mental health.
The purposeful awkwardness made it funny. The film is riddled with abrupt moments that startle a laugh out of you amidst the mundane boringness that comes with a character study of a woman that is bored with life.
I would recommend Corsage if you are into feminism-focused historical narratives and don’t mind a bit of a slow (ok very slow) pace.
SPOILER SECTION BELOW (TW: discussions of suicide):
The only problem I have with this movie is the ending... While the film does a great job at portraying Elisabeth’s depression towards the end of her life, the ending is not the best portrayal of suicide out there. While it is clear that Elisabeth has no other way out of her situation by the end of the movie, the pure delight surrounding it (paired with a happy soundtrack) paints suicide as a positive solution rather than a tragedy. While it IS a cathartic end to the movie, it can definitely paint a romanticised idea of suicide which can be harmful to unsuspecting audiences.