Includes 15-minute admission.

Luchino Visconti’s film about Bavaria’s King Ludwig II is an opulent, complex study of romantic ambition in the era of 19th-century decadence.

Helmut Berger plays the title role as a loner tormented by unrequited love for his cousin (Romy Schneider), an obsession with the music of Richard Wagner, and excessive state-funded expenditures. Visconti’s lavishly composed portrait of one of history’s most complicated figures is as much an operatic descent into madness as a requiem to a monarch at the dawn of the modern republican world. The Village Voice says, "Visconti’s project was, in a sense, an act of reclamation. This king was seen for decades as a pathetic disgrace, a failed statesman whose failing sanity cost his nation dearly. He had effectively ceded power over Bavaria, wanting nothing to do with the unified Germany rising around him, a new power driven by Prussian expansion and diplomatic realpolitik — the forces that would culminate in Nazism. In Visconti’s eyes, Ludwig is the end point of German romanticism, a symbol of a path not taken. (His approach differs significantly from the German director Hans-Jürgen Syberberg, who also made a film about the king in 1972; for Syberberg, Ludwig and German romanticism were early expressions of the same impulse that would eventually bring Hitler to power.)"

The Wall Street Journal's Joe Horowitz (and Wagner scholar) claims that "Visconti made a 264-minute film that was trimmed for distribution. In 1980 (four years after Visconti’s death), the original negative was purchased at an auction, then restored under the supervision of the original script supervisor. This version had its premiere later the same year at the Venice Film Festival. Whether the resulting mega-film is precisely what Visconti had in mind, I have no idea. But I am certain that it is a memorable achievement."

"There is one scene in Ludwig that I’ve never been able to shake, and it feels different every time I see this beautiful, hypnotic movie. It comes late in the film, as Elisabeth comes to visit Ludwig in one of his castles. The paranoid king refuses to see her. She walks around the grounds as we are treated to ten minutes of Romy Schneider silently touring this ornate, massive palace at Herrenchiemsee, shot on location. At the sight of a Versailles-like hall of mirrors, she begins to laugh uncontrollably, her cackles echoing in the vast emptiness of the room. Is this mockery or defiance? Is she guffawing at Ludwig’s insanity? Or is she gleefully admiring the fact that, as the old world collapses around him, this mad king has dared to dream not of war and empire and power, but of otherworldly beauty? The question hangs tantalizingly in the air." - Village Voice

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Tickets for Ludwig
Saturday, January 5, 2019 3 p.m.

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Director
Luchino Visconti
Released
1973
Language
Italian, German, and French with English subtitles
Country
Italy/France/West Germany
Running Time
238 minutes
Format
Digital, Color