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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
Ludwig. He loved women. He loved men. He lived as controversially as he ruled. But he did not care what the world thought. He was the world. From Luchino Visconti, the director of "The Damned" and "Death in Venice". Once again your eyes will be opened. See more »
I have not seen the highly edited 180 minute version of Ludwig, available in the US. However, I am lucky enough to have seen the full 4 hour and 7 minute version available on DVD in Germany. Alas, there are no English subtitles or soundtracks, but my mother is fluent in German and so I was able to get a line by line translation!
And my GOD, was it worth it. Although I felt it was a little slow in places, I was utterly drawn in to Ludwig's world as the film progressed. I can't speak for the US video version, but the full cut is divided into 5 parts. As each part comes and goes, we are steadily immersed into the world of Ludwig II (Helmut Berger in compelling form once more, as he was in Visconti's The Damned ). Ludwig has often been dismissed as "mad", but this film really lets you identify and understand the tormented man's life. One cannot help being on the verge of tears in sympathy towards the end of Part IV, when Ludwig is hiding in his absurdly decadent and expensive castle and Elisabeth (Romy Schnieder) tries to visit him. Wagner's Tristan und Isolde blazes on the soundtrack and he cannot bear to be seen by her in his state. He cries out her name repeatedly and sinks down on the ground. Some people have criticised Berger for being too melodramatic (Helmut 'Ham'-Berger one review once said), but he is perfect in this role. Not only does he strongly resemble the original Ludwig, but his acting is spot-on for capturing Ludwig's romantic and highly emotional personality.
This film deals with many themes that Visconti continually returned to in his career. It was made after his planned film based on Proust's epic masterpiece 'In Search of Lost Time' fell through (and what wouldn't I give for Visconti to have made that film!!) and might be seen to contain similar themes. There is decadence, decay, decline, homosexuality, and music. Not only is this film a fine study of historical events (the 'wars of Unification' in 1866 and 1870-1), but also of art and music (Ludwig's relationship with Wagner and the influence of Wagnerian art on his life), and of Ludwig's own highly-strung personality.
In short, this is yet another Visconti masterpiece. It's a CRIME that no-one has given this film a DVD release in its restored (or even any other) form in the US or the UK. The film was also filmed in English, but no English soundtrack is available on the German DVD, or subtitles. Again, this is another example of Visconti's work being overlooked and ignored - the sound quality is also not what it could be (the sound quality on the German track being DIABOLICAL, as opposed to the good Italian track). This film TRULY deserves a proper DVD release - music, direction, acting, and script are superb and this film deserves a far wider audience than it is allowed to receive. At least the German DVD is in the correct aspect ratio (2.35 : 1) as this film deserves to be seen in it's full glory (sets - most the real locations - and costumes are utterly stunning). I urge anyone who reads this to see Ludwig - even if one must resort to a horribly cut VHS version (how can you loose a whole HOUR from this film?!!). This is another Visconti masterpiece and cries out for a better and more widely available DVD release.
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