A great Empire, once famous for its enlightened traditions, is taken over by a ruthless political establishment. Religious fundamentalists and national separatists are tearing at the fabric of its liberal society. Under the influence of his conservative advisors, the Emperor fails to initiate the reforms that could save the Empire from annihilation. One man alone can avert the cataclysm to come. The year is 1888 and the 600 year-old Empire of Austria-Hungary is at a cross-road of history. Crown-Prince Rudolf, son of fabled Empress Sisi, the most beautiful woman of her time, is the man with the vision and the ability to lead his Empire into the 20th century. Yet his enemies, the all powerful Prime Minister first and foremost, scheme to isolate Rudolf from his father and from access to power. Against the backdrop of one of the most dangerous, exciting and colorful periods in history, at the dawn of the modern age, unfolds one of the greatest love-stories ever told, the story of "The ... Written by
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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