Wednesday, July 3rd, 2024

Queerguru’s Jose Mayorga reviews SISI AND I : the fatal life story of the Empress of Austria




A bewitching association of the Sleeping Beauty tale  and the Austro-Hungary Empress through the eyes of the lady-in-waiting.

Lights on it is showtime, literally and as a metaphor of what we are going to watch in this fictional story with a queer twist based on the life and death of Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie of Bavaria (1837-1898), nicknamed Sisi or Sissi, Empress of Austria and Queen consort of Hungary from her marriage to Emperor Franz Joseph I.

Franz Joseph fell in love at first sight with his younger cousin, to whom he married when she was 17 years old.  They loved each other, had 4 children, a male heir included, but they had a very complex relationship. Sisi, emotionally distanced from her husband, and became a recluse in a Women´s only commune.

It is known Sisi grew up in an unrestrained environment enjoying an unstructured childhood, a  free spirit throughout her life.  That caused her to feel like an outsider in the Habsburg  court life, having difficulty to deal with protocol and etiquette to say the least.  She is a fascinating character to follow and  has already been portrayed in books and several movies.

Sisi (Susanne Wolff) loved to travel and move from one place to the other by the Mediterranean and beyond. She had “Achillion” her palace in Corfu, Greece, where story takes us.

The story is told from the point of view of Countess Irma Sztaray (Sandra Huller)  42,  a lady from her entourage, chosen after a rigorous selection among the women of high-ranking families of the court.  Irma´s life choices were marriage, convent or to be companion of the Empress.

Great camerawork,, attention to details and contemporary music  set the tone for a visually rich experience, introducing us to the intimacy of Sisi´s microcosm.

Sisi´s court, ruled by her unusual demands, with kimonos and elixirs, also provided a routine of fasting, gymnastics, weight watching, riding and a rigurous diet where  Irma´s sense of hunger and thirst are transmitted to us.  Nature also rules in Corfu, and dogs, turttles and lizards are part of Sissi’s court daily life.

The film has references to the Sleeping Beauty tale, male phobias and jelousy from Irma and attraction from Sisi, communication with the spirits, secret medicines, letters and telegrams that come and go. All  moves around the captivating presence of Elisabeth,  a charming, witty, gifted, and also depressed woman living in a cage.

It is well known that by screaming  “death to the monarchy” Italian anarchist Luigi Luccheni murders Sisi in Geneve on Sept 10, 1898, she was 60.  Fiction in the film makes a twist while Sisi and her company lady walked at noon.  Lights off.

An addition to Sisi´s saga, the film is one to watch with good performances by Huller and Wolff.

Written and directed by Frauke Finsterwalder.  Original music by Michael Kunstle and Matteo Pagamici

Premiered at 73 Berlinale Panorama Section and opening in theaters on July 12.

If you are longing for more of Sisi, look for recent biopic  Corsage by Marie Kreutzer




Review by José Mayorga , Guatemala, Central America lawyer and notary public, visual artist, and editor of El Azar Cultural, lives and works in Guatemala City. Cinema lover, curious about the possibilities life brings and eager to live the experience.

Posted by queerguru  at  09:55


Genres:  international, period drama

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