The first question anyone with a little knowledge of the reception of King Ludwig II of Bavaria has to ask is: Why do we need a fifth feature film of Ludwig's life? What is shown that wasn't shown before? How can anyone top Visconti's "Ludwig II" (1972) and Helmut Berger's brilliant performance as the king? Of course, there is no simple answer to that. A lot of the new "Ludwig II" has the a clear feeling of remake to it. At some points, it seems that the only reason for the new movie is to present it in better visual quality. That can be a legitimate reason to watch this movie and in terms of visual quality, the movie does deliver, even if it would have been possible to "exploit" the beautiful landscape of Bavaria and the monumental castles much more.
On the other hand, in opposite of the wide majority of the German critics' opinion, the 2012 movie does have its own access to the persona of the eccentric king. Ludwig is portrayed as someone who just didn't fit in. He is very shy, nervous, sensitive and in every way not prepared to be the king, when his father dies shortly after his 18th birthday. What Ludwig loves does conflict with society's values and what is expected of a monarch: He is expected to lead his country into war and to marry for the benefit of his dynasty and country - but he hates everything that has to do with military and just can't love women. Tragedy evolves when he tries to force himself to do both - he is only partially successful, and has to sacrifice his inner well-being to do so.
Ludwig reminded me a lot of a 19th century "Donnie Darko", a "weird" (that means: different) young kid, who happens to be king. I think it's interesting to see him in such a perspective, because from a contemporary point of view, our society finally seems to accept, and sometimes even endorse, that being different can be a good thing. But in the 19th century, being different means to be insane. There is no room for someone like Ludwig, especially not in his position as king.
So overall, I really enjoyed the movie. On the other hand, I did disagree with the proportions of the different episodes of his life. His relationship with Richard Wagner, which of course played a very influential role in understanding Ludwigs character, was nevertheless given a way to big part in the movie. Plus, the "peripeteia" of the tragedy, the turn of events (here: Ludwigs resignation and complete flight from reality), was not really shown because of a huge time jump.
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