Vicky Krieps was supposed to be in the Cannes competition for Best Actress

She stars in the title “Corsage” from Un Certain Regard, an irreverently feminist drama that should have been in the official competition.

Vicky Krieps was set to compete in Cannes for Best Actress this year. But as usual, in Un Certain Regard the festival programmers have screened one of the best films at Cannes, Marie Kreutzer’s irreverently feminist Austrian royal drama “Corsage”. (Krieps also grabs raves for her second Un Certain Regard film, German filmmaker Emily Atef’s relationship drama More Than This.)

Krieps’ time will come. Since her breakthrough in 2017 opposite Daniel Day Lewis in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Phantom Thread, the Luxembourgish actress has been making up for lost time, filming one role at a time, regardless of making wise career choices, she told me at Cannes. “My decision always comes from the heart, which is why it never feels like a career choice.”

Mia Hansen-Love’s “Bergman Island,” starring Krieps and Tim Roth as the feuding couple, made for a bit of an art-house performance after its Cannes debut last year, while Mathieu Amalric’s Cannes-titled “Hold Me Tight” is finally making its North American debut in the fall. Krieps enjoyed her role in M. Night Shyamalan’s Old as almost an experiment in a Hollywood film.

But playing the rebellious Empress Elisabeth (“Sissi”) of Austria-Hungary in 1877 was a feat. Seven years ago, Austrian director Kreutzer first cast Berlin-based Krieps, who wasn’t working much at the time because she needed a mother’s seriousness for We Used to Be Cool. On their second round, the pair built on a bond of trust as they approached this revisionist treatment of the infamously restless Sissi, who at 40 defies the norms of the time as she tries to escape her gilded royal cage. (It wasn’t the first or last time a king disagreed with palace rulers; see “Spencer.”) All Sissi’s husband Franz Joseph (Florian Teichtmeister) wants is for her to carry out her royal duties responsibly. On the one hand, she struggles to keep her audience’s love, dieting and tightening her corsets; on the other hand she flirts with Bavaria and England and flirts with younger men.

"Bergman Island"

“Bergman Island”


Krieps and Kreutzer worked closely together to create Sissi, who loved playing Krieps — except for the painfully tight corset. “We underestimated that,” she says. “And [Kreutzer] apologized to me several times because I really suffered and it’s not true that actors say it helps your performance. That’s nonsense. It’s torture. It’s torture! For many weeks it was cramped and I couldn’t breathe properly. Because it binds your solar plexus where you feel, laugh and cry. You don’t have the power at all because you’re stuck. That makes everything more difficult.”

But it was great fun finding different ways for Sissi to behave. “It was my turn to be the slob that I am,” Krieps said, “as a woman who suffers more than anything I can imagine from this cage that you’re put in if you how.” is a public image and people speak of you as a woman in your beauty.”

In 1955, French actress Romy Schneider played the same role in “Sissi”. “She herself was a victim who also wanted to be seen because of his work and not because of his beauty,” said Krieps. “So both women suffered and were broken by the same thing. So that was a way of giving them something they couldn’t have.”

Like Anderson, Kreutzer gave Krieps a great deal of freedom. “They both trusted me in my artistic choices,” she said, “so I felt free like ‘Phantom Thread,’ things just happened because I knew I was allowed to go beyond what was written.” In “Corsage” is Sissi in a scene so frustrated that she can’t find the words. “I just opened the window and went out,” says Krieps. “I didn’t fall. But then that became part of the film. [Kreutzer] gave me a playground.”

The director took some liberties with the story. “I’ve made many revisions to the true story of Empress Elisabeth, but most are minor details,” Kreutzer wrote to me in an email. “The most significant difference lies in the ending of their story. Most of the time I’m filling in what might have happened between certain known dates in that one year of her life that I portrayed in the film – and I wanted to give her the power to make her own decisions about the end of her life.”



From adding Hungarian to her other languages ​​to fencing, the actress didn’t have much time to prepare for a demanding role. “They were very lucky,” she said, “because physically I get used to things very quickly. Otherwise, a month and a half would not have been enough. So I had to learn and ride fencing from scratch. I knew that, but not side saddles. How do you steer your horse with one leg now? I had a schedule.”

Sissy was a delight to Krieps because she has nothing but flaws: she can be narcissistic, childish, selfish, vain, and petty. “She’s a woman who’s not just nice and beautiful and pretty,” she said. “No! And just letting me be and showing that face of me too. I’m tired of always being nice, I’m tired of being pretty. Boring! That’s really how it was, Marie and I were like two naughty girls. It was like, ‘What do we do next?'”

This included updating the character to be more athletic, fierce, and anachronistic (along with the music played in court). In one scene, Krieps hid a sticky fake mustache on her sleeve and swept it onto her lip as a surprise to the director.

“There are many ways we both express ourselves as women of our time, you know? Her relationship with her husband is so nuanced and so close to relationships we all have. I broke out of a relationship with kids that I’m supposed to put up with, that our society tells us, you know, like, ‘Who are you to leave your kids and your husband when you’re supposed to do that?’ Well, because I don’t love that person. I am not happy. That’s why.”

Pandemic-related delays mean many Krieps films are coming out at once. Among them is Barry Levinson’s recent HBO drama Survivor (April 27). She also takes on Queen Anne in the upcoming big-budget French adventure The Three Musketeers. (She was willing to wear corsets if it was only for 10 days.) On “Colonia,” she had to swim with scuba gear eight months pregnant.

“I don’t know how I did that,” she said. “I don’t understand myself. How did you do that? I don’t know where I got this energy from.”

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Chris Estrada

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