Corsage (2022) Movie Themes & Ending, Explained: The Marie Kreutzer directorial, Corsage, premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, whose leading star, Vicky Krieps, snagged the Un Certain Regard Best Actress prize. The film looks at a year in the life of the Austrian Empress, Elisabeth, specifically the year of her turning forty in 1878. The approach Kreutzer is interested in is deep diving into Elisabeth’s soul, desperate to wander and break free of the expectations and constraints foisted upon her by the paraphernalia of the monarchy. She is a victim of the gaze of the tabloids, particularly ravenous with regard to her weight gain.
The film steers clear of elaborate plotting and iron-fisted narrative structures. Kreutzer lets her heroine amble and indulge and transgress in all her increasingly haywire glory. The film leans more toward capturing a sense of her spirit, her aching need for attention, and her delirious desire to be treated with unbending devotion and complete rapture. When she feels denied all these, she loses her moorings gradually, spinning wildly off control or rather its scant residual vestiges since she left her home in Bavaria for Vienna.
Corsage (2022) Plot Summary & Synopsis:
The film begins in the winter of 1878. The empress is grappling with weight issues especially since they are under the public scanner and serve as endless fodder for harsh scrutiny. She is mindful of it to the degree of being consumed in worry and designing her lifestyle regimen around it. Kreutzer quickly establishes the irreverent and sassy tone that she is keen to make the scaffolding of her film. In one scene, the empress fakes dropping unconscious right in the middle of being grilled under polite veneers by a clutch of royal kinsmen. This is just one of the many small acts of resistance she stages to drill loose ends into the superstructure within which she has to live and operate.
She is bored with her position and does not hesitate to voice her utter annoyance with it. She is about to turn forty; she adds, “at forty, a person begins to disperse.” She fights the realization of this wryly delivered nugget. She is struggling to keep herself from being scattered askew. We watch her travel to Northampton to see her sister. There, a hint of romance develops between her and her riding instructor. In one telling moment which seems to encapsulate the disconcerting extent of her narcissism, she remarks that she loved seeing him look at her. She cherishes that amount of attention and servility to what she supposes as the power of her beauty. Soon, gossip about their intimacy is fanned through the fray. Her son insists she keeps her distance from the instructor, Bay. She does not pay heed and removes herself only when the situation comes that has Bay see through her tactics and detach himself.
She has a fling with a moving image experiment, another of a cheeky revisionist trick deployed by the director. We also see her deal with the impending departure of her son for Prague to pursue his military education. Although her son is quite overt in his moments of disaffection with her, we sense she finds a space of greater empathy and heartfelt conversation than what she has with her much younger daughter.
The daughter is severe in her indictment of her mother’s ragged, unkempt manners. She indicates her displeasure with her constantly. Krieps’s expectant eyes cloud over with just the right proportions of hurt, growing emotional distance, and a crystallizing bitter realization that perhaps her daughter has drifted far too beyond her. Her son is more attuned to her need for rupture and uncomfortably slicing the establishment’s codified rules in complete disarray.
He is shown to be understanding of her being shunted by her husband. There are visits to her home in Bavaria, where she takes fancy to a Count only to be painfully repelled. We witness her being pushed back into the folds where she must function, without any leeway for her to breathe or negotiate an alternative way of being.
Corsage (2022) Movie Ending Explained:
The lack of any space to be her messy self makes her debilitated and try all risky endeavors. Her earlier attempts of retaliation against conventions slowly take a turn towards the lethal. Her nonchalant defiance of table manners being a presiding empress at a big ceremonious dinner is just one of the moments that breed the rift between her husband and her.
Her relationship with her husband keeps souring despite her obvious love for him. Their sexual life wanes, as he seems to take a fancy for another woman fleetingly which she notices and latches onto. She feels like she is going steadily adrift and utterly lost. Her self-destructive actions are her way of gaining and asserting control over her circumstances. She says that she has nothing to hold onto, not even herself; even that is an ordeal.
She attempts to kill herself through various means but fails each time. However, when she chops off her hair along with its associated carriers of connotations, she finds herself suitably relieved and at a much greater sense of free-ness than before.
The weight has somehow lifted and she can make out the road through the fog, the deferred journey she must make. Her soul, “a chaotic museum”, finds room to empty its crammed ghosts out and embrace the unfamiliar, a more pleasing environment than stuffy palatial interiors, stultifying and resolutely deadening. The film concludes with a ship journey, her making a plunge into the waters, an ultimate move off the carefully curated grid of appearance and manners.
Corsage (2022) Movie Themes Explained:
Entrapment and Emancipation
Corsage is essentially about the empress and her growing sense of being wholly disoriented within the structures she is hurled into once she has left Bavaria for Vienna. She is expected to stick to the rules of the steadfastly staid life of a queen who has to abide by some sort of prettiness barometer, not offend anyone by doing anything or looking outrageous and just be as vapid as possible, compliant, and happy to service the whims and fancies of those looking upon her.
She knows she cannot survive sanely within this narrowing ring of prescriptive and proscriptive behavior and therefore she must do her own sneaky little acts of protest. With all the obligations she has to attend to, she couldn’t be less bothered about anything and struggles to carve out her own distinctive space and voice. She is reckless and hot-headed, prone to impulses and rash decision making but she thrives on the liveliness of that way of living which comes most naturally to her, without imposing shadows of formal clearances.
The film’s innate fluidity courses through in perfect sync with its heroine’s vastness of individual will that runs amok of sanctions and orders. She is a creature of high freedom. Whatever people or her husband seek to clamp down on her with backfires in their only getting her even more riled up. She yearns for her home in Hungary, which is where she thinks she will regain her former ease. The final moments hint at her making the leaps, a daringly hopeful, impassioned plea for an agency, a statement of personhood. Corsage is a perfectly eccentric, adventurously radical look at what it means to declare your personhood unambiguously after emerging from a fire-tested process of honing the self and its perceptible limits.