SISI & I
(director/writer: Frauke Finsterwalder; screenwriter: Christian Kracht; cinematographer: Thomas W. Kiennast; editor: Andreas Menn; music: Matteo Pagamicie; cast: Susanne Wolff (Sisi), Sandra Huller (Countess Irma Sztáray), Anthony Calf (Earl Spencer), Tom Rhys Harries (Smythe), Andrea Winkler (Ludovica von Bayern), Georg Friedrich (Archduke Viktor of Austria), Sibylle Canonica (Maria Countess of Sztaray), Markus Schleinzer (cameo by German filmmaker, Kaiser Franz Joseph), Stefan Kurt (Graf von Berzeviczy), Sophie Hutter (Fritzi), Maresi Riegner (Marie), Johanna Wokalek (Grafin Festetics); Runtime: 132; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Philipp Worm/Tobias Walker; MMC Independent; 2023-Germany/Switzerland/Austria-in German, French and English with English subtitles)
“An irreverent, middlebrow and lavish costume drama on German regal history in the 19th century.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An irreverent, middlebrow and lavish costume drama on German regal history in the 19th century. It tells the story of -the capricious Empress Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary, known as Sisi (Susanne Wolff). It’s directed and written by German filmmaker Frauke Finsterwalder (“Finsterworld”/”Die Grosse Pyramid”) as if a soap-opera with modern-day feminist trappings. It follows another recent biopic on Sisi, the subversive and bolder visionary one of Corsage by Marie Kreutzer.
Late in the 19th century, four years before her death by assassination in 1898, the reclusive Sisi is living in a women’s only commune in Corfu, Greece (with Malta subbing), where she is joined by the Countess Irma (Sandra Huller), the lady-in-waiting, who is single and repulsed by men, to be her companion. The Hungarian companion cunningly bows to the unconventional whims of the Empress by letting go of her stylish Viennese ways in fashion to dress humbly and curbing her rich appetite to eat sparingly like Sisi. What the obedient companion can’t do is have sex like the Empress, who for hedonist pleasure turns to her flamboyant pal, the Archduke Viktor of Austria (Georg Friedrich) or getting it on with the handsome but callow British stable-hand Smythe (Tom Rhys Harries). Irma proclaims “Men always remind me of tablecloths.” Yet while her mistress loves being in the company of devoted women, their desires never seem entirely compatible.
The so-so film offers predictable mainstream entertainment, and good acting by the co-stars.
It played at the Berlin Film Festival.
REVIEWED ON 4/28/2023 GRADE: C+