An epic life deserves an epic length film. Thus when the famed Italian director Luchino Visconti sought to make a film about King Ludwig II of Bavaria, he wasn’t going to keep it brief. Ludwig’s reign lasted from 1864 until his death in 1886. The biggest moments are found in Ludwig‘s 257 minute running time. He was a major patron of the arts as well as the riving force behind Neuschwanstein Castle which appeared in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. He also had a tawdry private life that included patronizing his artists. Like The Tudors, Ludwig educates and entertains with all the elements of a royal life.
Ludwig (The Bloodstained Butterfly‘s Helmut Berger) is crowned when he’s only 18. While he has a country on the verge of war, he is already thinking of his legacy as a King who inspires great artists. He fixates on the composer Richard Wagner. He does his best to track down the man behind Der Ring des Nibelungen. Although he quickly learns that the reason Wagner won’t talk to his men is a basic miscommunication. Ludwig also has to find a queen. He finds himself getting intimate with Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Romy Schneider). However she’s his cousin although that means very little to European royal families where its all about power and land. Ludwig changes things up and gets engaged to Elisabeth’s sister Sophie (Sonia Petrovna). This means he’s still getting close with a cousin. Although this is all a bit of a smoke screen since Ludwig doesn’t mind getting freaky with guys especially ones he’s patronizing to help inspire their artistic urges. What will happen to this king who doesn’t like to hear no?
Ludwig huge in scope and beauty. The screen glitters from the actual locations from the King’s life. The opulence of Ludwig’s life is show with various the golden bedrooms and odd devices so the servants could set his table without letting them see him. There’s the cave with a pond and waterfall where his prized swans swim around. Visconti has Berger go the extra step as Ludwig ages on the screen. Along with aging the hair, Ludwig’s teeth get messed up so you’re not watching a Crest ad. Nothing is held back on the screen.
The film is presented in two ways. The theatrical cut has been split in half on the two Blu-ray discs (also the DVDs). There is also a TV version that cuts the film up into five episodes that ran on Italian television. While the five parts have a longer running time, this is mostly because of the opening and closing credits for each episode. You can feel safe picking the version that fits your time schedule. The film should appeal to anyone who enjoyed The Tudors or The Borgias.
The videos is 2.35 anamorphic. The 1080p transfer brings out the beauty of so many locations. The audio is Italian LPCM Mono. The sound mix is fine. There’s also an English dub, but since the movie was cut down to 3 hours for America, some of the dialogue is Italian in snipped scenes. The movie is subtitled in English.
Helmut Berger: The Mad King (16:05) is a recent interview with the star. He goes into his relationship with Luchino Visconti which involved them moving in together during the last years of the director’s life.
Luchino Visconti (60:35) is a biography about the director’s life and work. This was done for Italian television so it has English subtitles. This is a fine introduction to the famed director.
English Soundtrack Extract are pieces from the American cut of the film.
Trailer (3:49) is long enough to give you a sense that this will be a long film.
Producing Ludwig (14:21) allows Dieter Geissler to explain how huge this production company was. Dieter was turned onto the project by Helmut Berger. He speaks of how the epic was able to shoot in Ludwig’s old haunts.
Speaking With Suso Cecchi d’Amico (48:12) is a TV special about the screenwriter. She discusses all of his projects from over the decades.
Silvana Mangano: The Scent Of A Primrose (31:12) is an Italian TV special about the actress. It’s subtitled in English.
Arrow Video presents Ludwig. Directed by: Luchino Visconti. Screenplay by: Luchino Visconti, Enrico Medioli & Suso Cecchi d’Amico. Starring: Romy Schneider, Helmut Berger, Silvana Mangano, Trevor Howard & Gert Fröbe. Boxset Contents: 1 movie on 4 discs. Rated: R. Released: April 11, 2017.
Tags: Luchino Visconti, Ludwig