Vicky Krieps showing me pictures on her phone from when she took it Flower brooches, the Austrian Oscar entry, when she stopped to take a selfie. “This is when I climbed the tree,” she said. During her break playing 19th-century Austria’s Queen Elisabeth, aka Sisi, she would zip a red jumpsuit over her corset and climb a tree. I asked how she could even do it in limited clothes. “If you have a great need, you get things done,” she said. “I just.”
The scene in a corset climbing a tree is true to the anarchic spirit of the director’s acclaimed film Marie Kreutzer and Krieps himself. After her breakout role in 2017 Ghost theme, the Luxembourgish actress could have easily followed the set path of an American up-and-coming star, but Krieps is a rebel at heart who sees cinema as her savior and its audience. “Maybe that’s my mission in life,” she pondered in our conversation. “I feel that we are sleeping in this social fabric and whenever possible I try to wake someone up.”
Flower brooches is a revisionist take on Sisi, who held the crown from 1854 until her assassination in 1898. The film conveys the queen’s vanity — extremely long hair and extremely small waist — as well. like her sadness, filtering it through a modern perspective and revealing a woman who both conforms to and breaks the standards of beauty. Krieps captures Sisi’s uneasy predicament, as well as her character’s fickle and angry personality. And it’s also a deeply personal undertaking: Krieps brought the idea to Kreutzer, and her fascination with Sisi stretches back to her own teenage years.
On a cold December day, Krieps and I met at Balthazar in Covent Garden, which was buzzing with patrons, and alighted with Christmas decorations at 10:45 a.m. Over bowls of almost comical café au lait As funny as Krieps’ grandmother would drink, it was a fitting venue to discuss Sisi, still an icon in Europe. Krieps’ conservative neighbors grew up watching Romy Schneider’s trilogy about the queen every Christmas. She said: “I got to know her as a girl, but it was like, ‘Oh, this is a beautiful princess with a beautiful dress.
Krieps had a “beautiful hippie childhood” where she was “always naked in the garden”. Her mother taught her how to climb trees—trees were a recurring theme throughout our conversation—and that she didn’t need makeup. And then she enters the rest of the world, where she is required to obey otherwise no one will come to the cinema with her. At 14, her heart broke when she read Brigitte Hamann’s biography of Sisi, a reminder of her own rude awakening when she reached her teenage years. Now she says: “It’s the cruelty of the system, forcing you to do something.
In preparation to play the role of Sisi, Krieps put her body through the tests her character was subjected to. She swam in the ice in the Danube every morning for two months, then pulled out a picture of her frozen toes in the bathtub to show me. She learned how to ride side-by-side and how to get over hurdles. She worked with an advocacy coach to find body language for Sisi. But she also tapped generations of women in her own family—her mother, the rebel, and her more traditional grandmother. She said: “I have to make peace with my grandmother and understand why these women are behaving the way they are, why these women are playing this game. “To then allow myself to break it, lovingly.”
On set, Krieps, typically a “too socialite”, isolates himself from the rest of the cast and crew to show Sisi’s status. But she also keeps her mischievous impulses with her. Every morning before filming, she closes her eyes and imagines the queen on the right and Romy Schneider on the left. “I said, ‘I’m taking you to the playground now,’” she said. “I feel that these two women, like so many other women, should never be allowed to play around, just be silly, stupid, wrong, make mistakes, and be ugly.”