Elizabeth, Empress of Austria, Queen of Hungary and a raft of other titles I can’t remember but Galicia and Lodomeria are in n there somewhere has been talked about, written about and inspired more films than many royal women. She was a woman who did her won thing, defied convention, broke free of the suffocating corset of Habsburg court protocol and eventually left her husband, he Kaiser Franz Josef to live in exile in Geneva, where she was assassinated on the lakeshore in 1898, at the age of 61.

She was evidently a complex person yet many accounts fail to convey complexity. The 1957 film Sissi with Romy Schneider in the starring role is in the best known film of her life but does little more than portray her as the woman who saved the Empire as she charmed the Hungarian nobility into accepting the Compromise or Ausgleich,

Now we have a new film, by the Austrian feminist director Marie Kreutzer wit Vicky Krieps as Sissi. This is not a film about high politics and important events but about a woman in all her glorious messiness. The new film is set in 1877 as Elisabeth turns 40, conscious of ageing and fading beauty, conscious too that her marriage is not working and cannot work. She is a woman set free from stereotypes, a woman who away from the stifling atmosphere of the Hofburg and Schonbrunn pursues love interests with both men an woman, a woman who is selfish and narcissistic, who uses her status to get what she wants even as she rejects the restraints and duties that come with the privilege,

But there are erotic depths and she compels submission, even as those who submit, you feel, must hate her for it. Suh is the fate of her lady in waiting who, requesting permission to leave the Empress’ service to accept a late and unexpected marriage proposal, receives a brusque refusal. Only Sissi’s happiness and convenience count. All others are insignificant even as she demands their loyalty and obedience. She is like the domme from Hell.

And yet the viewer is drawn to her. I was.  As I sat in the darkened cinema,  cocktail in hand, I saw myself dropping to one knee, kissing the violet leather glove. I was wet. .

This is not just about Sissi. It is about all the selfish manipulative people we are drawn to. People like A who I once knelt before, in a side room at a kink venue, kissing her leather glove in a spontaneous act of worship. Two years later I sent her the hardest text message I have ever sent, telling her coldly and curtly that I no longer wanted her in my life. It didn’t need courage to send it, her spell over m was broken by then, but there was an emotional pain that made me wish for a sliver of ice in my heart. I read her shocked and wounded reply with no emotion. I was free. I replied no more, deleted her number.

There can be erotic excitement in abasing ourselves before egotists and narcissist but it is no good for us and we need to break free. I did unlike those doomed to serve Sissi. I look back, I even have a few pleasant memories of things we did together but that is it. I don’t look back in anger but rather with a feeling of having learned and grown.   

One thought on “CORSAGE

  1. Your discussion of this film and the person it portrays has intrigued me. I enjoyed this review and your feelings about narcisstic relationships

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s