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Izidore K. Musallam
The film recounts the last years of the life of the Austrian Crown Prince Rudolf of Hapsburg until his tragic death in Mayerling. They are highlighted the difficult relationship with his father, the Emperor Franz Joseph, and the affectionate bond with his mother, the Empress Sissi; the failed marriage to Stephanie of Belgium; and his romantic relationships with the prostitute Mizzi Kaspar and the young Baroness Mary Vetsera, together with whom he will die in Mayerling. The film endorses the reconstruction according to which the Archduke apparently committed suicide, overwhelmed not only by a role that weighed and imprisoned, but also from the disappointment due to the low esteem that his father would usually express.
This mini TV-serial is a dramatic retelling of the life and death of Kronprinz Rudolf von Habsburg, who committed suicide together with his love, Baroness Mary Vetsera, in the infamous small castle at Mayerling. There have been various films about this subject, even a Hollywood production starring Catherine Deneuve and Omar Sharif as Rudolf, who is also part of this recent production as a painter and friend of Rudolf, but they all stressed the romantic subtext of the events and largely ignored the political and personal conflicts which made Rudolf do what he did. But this new film version of the story really does include quite a lot of Rudolf's personal and political background and in the end portrays him as one of the first to imagine an united and peaceful Europe, an idea his time and age wasn't yet ready for.
Direction and photography of the lavish sets are very well done considering this is just a TV production. The cast consists of mostly well known Austrian or German actors who all do a great job, but also includes Omar Sharif and Sandra Ceccarelli as Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who possibly (next to the actor playing Rudolf) gives the best performance of this movie. Being cast as Elisabeth of Austria always involves carrying the heavy burden of Romy Schneider's great performance in Viscontis "Ludwig II", but Ms. Ceccarelli not only has the very well done script which portrays Elisabeth as a multi-faceted person on her side, but also her interesting face and her talent.
All in all it's funny to compare this Austrian TV-event with its recent German counterpart, the mini TV-serial "Störtebeker", which was big fun to watch but not only lacked good direction and photography, but also the depth and talent behind it that "Kronprinz Rudolf" obviously has.
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