Celebrated Italian director Luchino Visconti goes deep into the 19th century with this historical account of King Ludwig II of Bavaria. “Ludwig” begins with the kings crowning in 1864 and follows his controversial life through his many sexual encounters, with both men and women, his betrayal of a best friend, his deep love for his cousin Elisabeth of Austria and his spiral into madness, which culminates with his death in 1886.
The Academy Award nominated film was originally released in 1973, Helmut Berger (Ludwig) puts in a performance of a lifetime taking on such a complex and maddening character. He is aided greatly by the terrific supporting cast of Romy Schneider (reprising her Elisabeth of Austria character from the “Sissi” trilogy); Trevor Howard who plays the best friend Richard Wagner; Silvana Mangano as Cosima Von Bülow; and Gert Fröbe as Father Hoffman
As period piece, “Ludwig” is hauntingly accurate from the elaborate sets, the costume design and dialogue, which all balances out the dark topics of the story. There is a lot to take in with this film and would do the viewer best to watch it multiple times. As I watched “Ludwig” I couldn’t help but to think of the similarities to the Marquis de Sade. The King of Bavaria only lived to be 41 (which might be considered old at that time?), but he lived life to the fullest despite his struggles with controversy and madness.