The second in a trilogy of movies about Elisabeth "Sissi" of Austria, the film chronicles the married life of the young empress as she tries to adjust to formal and strict life in the palace and an overbearing mother-in-law.
The Austrian empress enjoys traveling trough Hungary, where she ultimately finds the politically priceless affection of local count Andrassy too intimate, but it's only temporary relief from the frustrations of court life in Vienna, where dutiful Franz remains chained to his desk and leaves his chillingly strict mother Sophie interfering, even in the upbringing of their daughter. When Sissi is diagnosed with plausibly fatal tuberculosis and Franz has to allow Sophie to remove their daughter on doctor's warning, Sissi is in danger of losing the will to live while exiled to recovery-inducing climates (Portuguese Madeira and Greek Corfu). Then desperately needed psycho-somatic therapy appears in the form of her indestructibly positive mother Ludovika of Bavaria, who lovingly nurses both her sickness and her taste for life on idyllic walks. Once again Oberst Böckl, the clumsy body-guard whose doting admiration for the empress borders on the improper, provides a comical note, as each time ... Written by
The final film in the Sissi trilogy - The Fateful Years of the Empress -- again stars Romy Schneider as Empress Elisabeth of Austria. These films are beloved by the European public, just as some of the Disney films we saw as children are to us.
As far as history goes, the movies are not very accurate, though they do show real events. Sissi and her husband are portrayed as very much in love, a very romantic couple, although that was not true. Also, for the purposes of this film, their daughter Sophie actually lives, and there aren't any other children. Actually the whole end of this film in Venice, in history, took place much later in Sissi's life, and her son Ludwig was present.
One interesting fact is that, as in the film, Sissi's brother married the actress Henriette Mendel, and she was made a Baroness. Their illegitimate daughter, who appears as a character in the movie, becomes Marie Larish. Marie Larish was the go-between for Elisabeth's son Ludwig and his fiancé Mary. After the Mayerling scandal, when Ludwig shoots Mary and then himself, it was learned that Marie served as go-between, and the family, including her close companion Sissi, completely disowned her.
During the time that Sissi spends in Hungary, there were rumors that Count Andrassy was her lover, but this was never proved. The film is so whitewashed that a liaison would never have occurred to Sissi. Sissi does become very ill -- they suspect tuberculosis -- and is sent to Madeira to recover. However, it is believed that her condition was very much psychosomatic -- she really didn't like being at the palace -- because, unlike in the film, when she arrived in Madeira, she had a miraculous recovery. In the film, she remains ill until her mother arrives and gets her walking, etc.
This film ends with the Emperor and Empress' triumphant appearance in Venice. Marischka planned on doing a fourth film, but Romy Schneider refused, turning down one million Deutschemarks. Schneider would become Elisabeth once more, in 1972, in the film Ludwig, playing the character closer to the real Sissi.
The costumes, the scenery, the pageantry in this film is spectacular. Romy Schneider is fresh and beautiful and luminous as Empress Elisabeth, not at all the dark, anorexic character described in history as time went on.
Sissi's end was tragic, as was Schneider's, but Europeans, so beaten down by war, were in the mood for something beautiful, and they got it with the Sissi films. She is such a beloved character there, like Princess Diana, audiences loved this view of her life.
To be enjoyed as a real feast for the eyes.
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