The Empress review: A nuanced portrayal of the Austrian Empress

The Empress is a period drama about Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie and her life as the Austrian Empress amid growing political unrest.

Story

Elisabeth accepts the role of the Empress of Austria after getting picked by the Emperor over her sister. Unlike her husband, she becomes popular among the public immediately after the wedding.

The public unrest grows against the Emperor with the growing poverty and the threat of war. His brother uses the opportunity to conspire against him. A group of citizens also plan to overthrow the monarch and infiltrate the palace.

The Archduchess fears the loss of control and pushes Elisabeth to follow the rules she established. Elisabeth tries to connect with her citizens but faces opposition from the royal family.  

Performances

The performance by the entire cast immerses the audience in nineteenth-century Vienna and humanises the common faces of history.

Melika Foroutan steals the show with her meticulous performance as the Archduchess known for pulling the strings of her entire family. 

Devrim Lingnau brings the character of Elisabeth alive in front of the audience with her performance. 

Philip Froissant as Emperor Franz Joseph portrays the wide-ranging emotions of the king conflicted between his devotion to her wife and his duties as an Emperor. 

Johannes Nussbaum plays the role of the Emperor’s greedy brother. He portrays the character’s agony and envy so well it consistently dwindles the audience’s opinion about him as a person who has lived under his brother’s shadow his entire life.

Positives

The splendid visuals of the show grab the attention in the first scene itself. Each shot in every episode gives attention to details and utilises its aesthetics to amplify the feeling of a scene. The camera shots are often used to depict the feelings of the conflicted Empress. 

The tensions between each character heighten the emotional stake of the plotline. Whether it is a rivalry or a budding romance, the writing and the actors execute the relationships pretty well. 

Unlike several movies based on the Empress, the show focuses on the complications of her relationship with the Emperor instead of solely fixating on their romance. 

Having a woman creator certainly helps the show present a realistic portrayal of the Empress and her life. She falls victim to several patriarchal conventions that deem her to be inferior to men. An accurate representation of the marriage of the Empress in the nineteenth century is presented such as the scene where Elisabeth’s chastity is verified by two men. Elisabeth tries to rebel against the conventions but fails. 

Negatives

While trying to set up its characters and storylines, the show fails to focus on the narrative of the first season. A lot of major plotlines are built for the upcoming seasons which takes away the satisfaction from its first season. 

While it focuses on the uprising of the people in Vienna, the show treads on a thin line between becoming another show that glorifies the monarchy and a show that presents a somewhat realistic version of history. It follows a narrative structure that feels familiar as many period pieces before it have done the same.

Verdict

The show follows a common narrative structure but adds a new perspective by focusing on the uprising inspired by the French Revolution. Season one presents an engaging storyline and sets up the characters and plots for the consequent seasons. While the final verdict about whether the show justifies the life of the Austrian Empress Elisabeth depends on the complete storyline, the first season provides an immersive experience for its audience.

The Empress
The Empress review: A nuanced portrayal of the Austrian Empress 1

Director: Florian Cossen, Katrin Gebbe

Date Created: 2022-09-29 12:30

Editor's Rating:
4

Also Read: The Empress ending explained: Did Elisabeth leave Franz?