Historical evocation of Ludwig, king of Bavaria, from his crowning in 1864 until his death in 1886, as a romantic hero. Fan of Richard Wagner, betrayed by him, in love with his cousin Elisabeth of Austria, abandonned by her, tormented by his homosexuality, he will little by little slip towards madness.Written by
Romy Schneider only agreed to reprise the trademark role of her youth as Empress Elisabeth of Austria if the role would avoid all the usual clichés associated with the character and she would be allowed to portray Elisabeth as the cynical and disillusioned woman Elisabeth was known to be historically, though she did concede to put famous diamond decorations in her hair for one short scene. See more »
Count von Dürckheim-Montmartin was 16 years old when the German War of 1866 happened. In the movie he is portrayed as a man in his 40s. See more »
Elisabeth of Austria:
What do you want anyway? To go down in history with the help of Richard Wagner? Like my mother-in-law with her ridiculous painters? If your Richard Wagner is really so great then he doesn't need you. Your pathetic friendship only gives you the illusion to have done something creative. Just like I give you the illusion of love. You don't want to be left alone. You want me to become your unrivalled love. To confirm yourself. You need help I can't give you.
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In the first closing credits every main actor is shown with separate credit. The last one is the one of Romy Schneider, which sets it apart, due to the frame around her name. See more »
The recent Fox Lorber video release runs approx. 236 minutes. It was listed, in the opening credits as the "versione integrale" in Italian, produced with the association of RAI. At the end of the film, it credits the dubbers. See more »
Lasting for more than four hours, Luchino Visconti's "Ludwig" is an exhausting and unrelentingly gloomy film on the life of Bavarian king Ludwig II "the Mad." There is interesting subject matter to work with here. Ludwig's mania for Wagnerian operas and then castles resulted in him bankrupting his kingdom. Then he was forced to abdicate and seek treatment in an insane asylum, where he died along with his psychiatrist under mysterious circumstances.
Nevertheless, Visconti succeeds in making the life of Ludwig II (Helmut Berger) boring. A big reason for the film's problems are the overly long and slow-moving scenes of Ludwig II's coronation, enigmatic conversations with Elizabeth of Austria (Romy Schneider), Richard Wagner and his operas, the king's relationships with attractive males, and so on - all meticulously detailed. You would be forgiven for thinking, as I did, that these overly long scenes were somehow important, because otherwise what is the point of dedicating four hours to figuring out what is going on in this movie. Yet the film's details just accumulate rather than amount to any payoff. In fact, a movie- goer can arrive late, miss the scenes with the coronation and Elizabeth of Austria, and still get as much out of this movie as the person who sat in his seat for four hours. These scenes do not contribute to the plot and are only related in so far as they happen in the life of Ludwig. "Ludwig" also has scenes which seem unnecessary to the plot. Was it necessary to show that many Wagnerian operas or to show Wagner performing music for his mistress, Cosima? Did we really need to know that Bavaria lost the war to Prussia, when Visconti does not seem that interested in explaining what consequences this defeat had for Ludwig or Bavaria? Lastly, there is also something very self- indulgent about this depiction of Ludwig's life. Ludwig's obsession with building opera houses and then castles must have brought considerable hardship to his own people, but this theme is never explored. Instead, Visconti seems content to film Ludwig living in complete isolation of his people and getting swindled by favourites. The message of the film does not seem to be that Ludwig impoverished his people to satisfy his own obsessions (even though such a message would be consistent with Visconti's Marxist beliefs), but rather that living in damp castles is a lonely and depressing experience. It's obvious that Visconti tried to generate some sympathy for Ludwig, but the problem is that the Bavarian king decided to make his own life miserable by indulging heavily in these obsessions in the first place. As a result, it becomes impossible to identify with Ludwig or any of the other characters in this film.
Like other Visconti films, "Ludwig" also has truly beautiful visuals. Yet so what, when the the story was not interesting enough to justify this fantastic cinematography? There are few people who can film a coronation scene as well as Visconti could, but that does not change the fact that I do not want to watch a coronation that shows no sign of ever ending. There are few people who illustrate ostentatious luxury with the same meticulous detail as Visconti, but watching Ludwig gradually deteriorate emotionally and physically in gilded prisons (i.e. castles) of his own making is not my idea of entertainment. What this movie required were film makers willing to make the tough choices about which scenes to keep and which to let go of long before the screenplay went into production.
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