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Built mostly around medium close-ups and dark interiors, the film creates a sense of isolation that matches the lead character's own state of mind.
Grand and melancholy...
Visconti has been such an intelligent film maker in the past that it's difficult to believe that Ludwig could be quite as bereft of ideas as it is.
Perhaps only Visconti, who seems obsessed with the gloomy side of decadence, could have made Ludwig II of Bavaria seem boring.
It can feel cumbersome, frustratingly disjointed, at times certainly a heavy watch. And yet this full-length Ludwig... feels today like a painting whose images and forms can be at least freshly recognized.
An unconscious parody of Visconti's own embattled romanticism, a diatribe against "privileged liberty," an old morality play in which the free soul is the damned soul-a dyspeptic Visconti, as it were, lecturing himself.
Though stylish, it remains hollow.
Ultimately hollow and historically inaccurate.
We Could be Heroesâ€¦Grand, Operatic, and Elegiac! Visconti is at his best enlivening the historical, with his attention to every detail. Shot on location, the narrative structure wonderfully paces the rule of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Helmut Berger infuses his portrayal with ambiguity, further heightened by nascent homosexuality: Is he mad or a genius? This idealistic Moon King is not a ruler for a united German republic. Associations with the feminine and embryonic state abound. With twitching hands and shifting eyes, Ludwigâ€™s mannerisms alone chart his retreat to a world of fantasy. This film must be seen in its complete, unexpurgated version to appreciate the artistry. Truly Royal!
Even before he is crowned King of Bavaria in 1864, Ludwig(Helmut Berger) makes plans for his kingdom to be a center of arts in Europe. Along these lines, he invites famed composer Richard Wagner(Trevor Howard) to Munich but he is nowhere to be found. And he is shocked when he finds out that his police are employed in tracking him. In the meantime, Ludwig is encouraged to vacation at Bad Ischl where all the fashionable crown heads are staying this year including his cousin Elisabeth(Romy Schneider), Empress of Austria, who has the ulterior motice of trying to set up Ludwig with his cousin Sophie(Sonia Petrovna).
Directed by Luchino Visconti, "Ludwig" is a scrupulously made if talky and overlong spectacle that tries its best to avoid any specific history like the unification of Germany in exchange for an examination of the role of the ruler in a monarchy. In other words, who runs the country: the king or the nobles? And what if the king has little interest in statesmanship?
The movie is told in flashback from a hearing set to determine Ludwig's mental capacity to rule, determining whether he is insane or merely eccentric.(This does remind me of a very recent case where the royal title was only honorary.) I could tell you he is certainly gay. In any case, there is a simple answer located in an old saying: If you are poor, then you are crazy. If you are rich, then you are eccentric.
What more can you ask when you have an all-star cast of Berger,Mangano,Howard,Schneider,a cohesive prestige of "wealthy pendants" and a brilliant piece of biographical composition.A legendary figure to dedicate this probably,aha...who cares if that individual is a combination of Napoleon,T.E. Lawrence and Caligula?
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