No less than two feature films and two series are currently returning to the life of Elisabeth de Wittelsbach (1837-1898), immortalized after the Second World War in kitsch mode by Romy Schneider in the cinema.

All eyes will be on Friday for the preview presentation of the film "Corsage" on the Croisette in Cannes (south of France), while another project set up in Austria is expected for the fall.

And the series "Sissi" designed by the German channel RTL +, broadcast in France at the end of 2021, will be entitled to a sequel after a critically acclaimed first season, while with "The Empress", Netflix will soon deliver its version.

Actress Romy Schneider during the filming of the film "Sissi" in 1954 in Austria - AFP/Archives

A renewed interest driven by the desire to "find more women's stories", explains actress Dominique Devenport, who lent her features across the Rhine to the Empress of Austria in the strength of her youth.

first star

Married to François-Joseph when she was only 16, Sissi, a glamorous star in perpetual representation, lived an "extreme and full of pain" life, constantly subject to the rigid protocol of the Habsburg court.

"How to stay yourself, what decisions to make, how to meet expectations?", so many questions that reflect very contemporary issues, underlines the 26-year-old actress.

Actress Dominique Devenport at Canneseries for the presentation of the series "Sissi", October 12, 2021 Valery HACHE AFP / Archives

Especially since "entering history at the time of the advent of mass media", Sissi was "one of the first women confronted with immense celebrity in Europe", as historian Martina Winkelhofer recalls, author of a book on this iconic personality.

The invention of photography accelerated the fame of this excellent horsewoman: "Suddenly, you could really see the wife of an emperor", she continues.

Sissi was a pioneer in the use of her image for political purposes, working for union with Hungary, and tried to control it until she became obsessed.

She escaped the gaze of the Court through secret passages by taking refuge in the elegant Villa Hermès nestled in the heart of a hunting reserve near Vienna, offered by her husband.

Historian Martina Winkelhofer in the room of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known as "Sissi", on January 21, 2022 at Villa Hermès in Tiergarten, Austria ALEX HALADA AFP / Archives

The curator of the museum, Michaela Lindeinger, shows there sports equipment made to measure allowing her to maintain the silhouette, slender to the extreme, of an eternal young girl.

Myth in rose water

It was there that she spent, reclusive, the last years of her life after the suicide of the heir to the throne, her son Rodolphe in 1889.

You can still see there today in his bedroom the morbid statue made on his order of a woman wearing the veil of mourning, symbol of a melancholy accompanying her until her assassination at the age of 60 by an Italian anarchist. .

Museum curator Michaela Lindeinger in front of the main entrance to the Villa Hermès where Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known as "Sissi" spent the last years of her life, on February 8, 2022 in Tiergarten, near Vienna ALEX HALADA AFP

It is this Sissi at the end of her reign, frustrated by a system that never allowed her to express an opinion, that Vicky Krieps plays in the drama presented this year at Cannes, in the "Un Certain Regard" selection.

At the antipodes of Romy Schneider, the Luxembourger embodies an empress who despairs of emancipating herself from her husband and tastes none of the pleasures of the Court.

A feminist biopic directed by Marie Kreutzer, Sissi appears there as a melancholic woman, only managing to escape when she leaves Vienna, far from the eyes of François-Joseph who refuses her any interference in the life of the Empire.

Enough to break the rosy myth of a pretty fairy-tale princess with an existence made up of travels and splendor that earned her to adorn boxes of chocolate in museum shops.

The bedroom of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known as "Sissi", at the Villa Hermès, on January 21, 2022 in Tiergartend, near Vienna ALEX HALADA AFP

Because even today, tourists consume a dream sold in Vienna of sequins and waltzes, under the gilding of the imperial apartments, attracting even China, where Sissi remains adored.

The rights to the German series have been purchased in Brazil as well as in Central and Eastern Europe.

These multiple facets allow "each era to have its own Sissi", summarizes Martina Winkelhofer.

© 2022 AFP