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"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."
  • R
  • 1973
  • 3 hr 4 min
  • 7.5  (5,937)

"Ludwig" is a 1973 historical drama movie directed by Italian filmmaker Luchino Visconti. The biographical film tells the story of the life and reign of Ludwig II, the king of Bavaria from 1864 until his mysterious death in 1886. Portrayed by Helmut Berger, Ludwig II is presented as a tragic character whose artistic and creative vision clashes with the political and societal constraints of his time. From a young age, Ludwig was fascinated by the romantic ideals of his era, particularly those of Richard Wagner, whose music and operas mesmerized him.

The film follows Ludwig's journey as he ascends to the throne after the death of his father, King Maximilian II. Initially, Ludwig is overshadowed by his advisors and the political pressure to conform to the traditional role of a monarch. However, he soon begins to express his own artistic and cultural vision, much to the chagrin of his advisors, who view Ludwig as an eccentric and unfit king.

Ludwig's obsession with Wagner and his music grows deeper as the film progresses, and his admiration for the composer eventually leads him to offer Wagner a position at his court. This move creates more resistance from his advisors and growing concerns among the public about how he is running the kingdom.

Meanwhile, Ludwig's personal life is also explored in "Ludwig." He develops a close relationship with his cousin, the beautiful Empress Elisabeth of Austria (played by Romy Schneider), who shares his love of the arts and becomes his muse. Their relationship is platonic, but it is clear that Ludwig sees her as a kindred spirit and a source of emotional support in his turbulent life.

The film also delves into Ludwig's sexuality, which was a taboo subject during his time. He is shown to be attracted to men, particularly his close confidante, Richard Hornig, whom he elevates to a position of power in the court. This aspect of Ludwig's life creates even more tension with his advisors and the public, who view homosexuality as a perversion and a threat to the stability of the kingdom.

As Ludwig becomes more isolated and paranoid, the film culminates in his eventual downfall and mysterious death. The movie hints at several possible theories about what happened to him, from suicide to murder, but leaves it up to the audience to decide.

Overall, "Ludwig" is a visually stunning and emotionally complex film that explores the life of one of the most fascinating figures in European history. Helmut Berger delivers a mesmerizing performance as the king, conveying his anguish, passion, and eccentricity with nuance and depth. Romy Schneider also shines as the enigmatic Empress Elisabeth, who brings a touch of glamour and tragedy to the story.

Visconti's direction is masterful, showcasing his signature attention to detail and visual style. The film's opulent sets and costumes, as well as its sweeping shots of the Bavarian landscape, create a romantic and melancholic atmosphere that perfectly captures the mood of Ludwig's era.

While "Ludwig" may be slow-paced and introspective at times, it is an engrossing and thought-provoking work that offers a window into a bygone era and the psyche of one of its most enigmatic figures.

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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    3 hr 4 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    7.5  (5,937)