In the late 1800's, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, falls for Sophie Chotek, a Czech countess. He's already a problem to the Crown because of his political ideas; this...
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In the late 1800's, Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, falls for Sophie Chotek, a Czech countess. He's already a problem to the Crown because of his political ideas; this love affair with someone not of royal blood breeches protocol. The Crown allows the union only after the couple agrees to a morganatic marriage. The emperor further neutralizes Franz by making him inspector general of the army, sending him afield for months at a time. In June of 1914, fearing for his safety, Sophie seeks permission to accompany Franz to Sarajevo; protocol dictates that no army troops attend Franz while she is present. An assassin strikes. Their deaths spark World War I. Written by
In theory, this should be an ideal subject for Max Ophuls. The star-crossed liaison between Archduke Franz Ferdinand - unwilling heir to the Habsburg throne - and his morganatic wife, Countess Sophie Chotek. Starting with their thwarted early romance, the script covers their quasi-legal yet implausibly happy marriage, and ends with the couple's assassination by a Serb terrorist in 1914. (The event that triggered World War I, as any high school student will tell you.) Heady stuff, but so starched and sterile in its handling, it recalls the historical pageants that Herbert Wilcox made for his wife Anna Neagle.
Of course, there are one or two fine sequences, where Ophuls' flowing and sinuous camerawork comes into its own. A few moments of bravura acting by the ever-magnificent Edwige Feuillere. (Notably, a scene where she turns down a court invitation to become the Archduke's mistress.) Weighing against that are a lumpish script, an absurdly propagandistic ending, a non-performance of such unerring dullness and rectitude by John Lodge that he already seems to have embarked on his later career in politics.
Sadly, I spent most of this film's running time simply waiting for it to begin. I only gave up once I realised it was almost over.
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