Synopsis by Clarke Fountain
Luchino Visconti (Count don Luchino Visconti di Modrone) was a film director, true, but he was also a nobleman and a grand patron of traditional European culture: opera, art, music, crafts and literature. These interests enliven many of his films, but few have been so inspired as the four-hour epic, Ludwig, about the castle-building "mad king" of Bavaria. This long film, made very near the end of Visconti's life, suffers greatly when shortened, as every moment is essential to the story. There are at least four different versions of the film (from just under three hours to over four hours in length); the uncut four-hour version is the most coherent, even though many might find it rather long. The disintegration of aristocratic individuals is a continuing theme of Visconti's, though Ludwig's is the most thorough decay he filmed. The last ruling king of Bavaria (1845-1886) is noted for many things besides his eccentricities: he sold Bavaria to Germany, ending the rule of the Bavarian monarchy; he built amazing castles all over his country (with the proceeds from the sale); and he was Richard Wagner's main sponsor. He was also a notorious recluse, conducting a lifelong platonic love affair with Empress Elizabeth of Austria, and finally succumbing to his adoration of handsome men in a series of outrageous affairs and orgies. His excesses eventually led to his being declared mentally incompetent and being held prisoner in his own castle. The film depicts this incredible life from his coronation at age 19 to his (unproved) assassination well over 20 years later.
Bavaria, castle, composer, eccentric, king, recluse, visionary