It was with the release of American psychologist Walter Pitkin’s self help book Life Begins at Forty in 1932, that the phrase grew in popularity. But it wasn’t always the case, as prior to it, it was more common for it to be said that ‘death begins at forty’, due to a far shorter life expectancy.

Austrian director Mare Kreutzer’s latest film, has Empress Elisabeth of Austria as its subject matter, following her life as she turns forty.

boom reviews Corsage
I would have still preferred to go as Gavin and Stacey.

Being an empress can take its toll on you, especially if you’ve been ‘empressing’ for as long as Elizabeth of Austria (Vicky Krieps) has been.

Now approaching her fortieth birthday, Elizabeth is becoming more obsessed with the way she looks, or more specifically the comments that are made about the way she looks.

There’s also a sense of disillusionment about the whole royal thing, and her role in it. She starts to feel there are restrictions on what she can and can’t do, which really aren’t on, so this upcoming birthday seems the perfect time for a change.

boom reviews Corsage
You say 'Ahhh' bitch.

It’s always curious when filmmakers decide to create a fictional account of someone’s real life, but that’s exactly what Kreutzer has done. It’s made all the more curious by Elizabeth’s actual life being far more dramatic than it is here. Take the film’s ending, which is a million miles away from how the Empress actually died, which was being assassinated in Geneva in 1898. Although Kreutzer’s finale is dramatic, it’s not in the same league as actual events. Which begs the question, why do it?

Perhaps it’s an attempt at a 19th century multiverse scenario, offering a differing outcome to real events. Although a creative attitude, it would rather poo-poo on actual historical events, which would be somewhat harsh and unfair.

So not exactly historically accurate then.

What it is however, is drawing parallels with today, particularly with the obsession of body shaming. Elizabeth is always aware of what is said about her appearance, which makes her react to these comments in constantly trying to look thinner.

It also appears to be drawing on British royal history, purposefully or not, with a number of parallels with the ‘people’s princess’ Diana. Elizabeth is seen to be in a marriage that has very little to do with love, and more like a vocation. She also wants to break from the norm and try to make a real difference, only to be thwarted by the powers that be. Regardless, it doesn’t stop her from putting herself out there, especially visiting those suffering in hospital. Sound familiar?

Overall it’s an interesting exercise, if nothing else, with Krieps giving a right royal account of herself as the Empress, just don’t expect much in the way of anything resembling historical fact.

we give this two out of five