Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
In 1973, (Helmut Berger starred in one of Luchino Visconti's last masterpieces, a filmed biography of the Mad King of Bavaria (1845-1886) entitled Ludwig. In that film, the king's loss of control over his life was seen as resulting from a tragic disparity between the desires of an admittedly peculiar and neurotic man and the needs of the state of Bavaria, which he sold to the nation of Germany in order to raise funds to build his famous castles. In the present film, Helmut Berger again plays Ludwig. In the story, Ludwig has travelled from Munich to Switzerland with a handsome actor (Max Tidof) who is part of his personal entourage, in order to hear him recite Schiller's "William Tell" in an appropriate setting. Unfortunately, the recitation is a disaster, and the aesthetic monarch is sorely disappointed. Meanwhile, his secretary of state is desperate to get him to pay some attention to more practical matters. Despite plentiful allusions in other quarters to the king's homosexuality, in this film no such inference or imagery appears. Instead, the king is maddened purely by an overstrong attachment to exalted aesthetic notions and ideals.