The story of the legendary King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886), his opera interest and friendship with theatre personalities such as Richard Wagner and Joseph Kainz, and at the same time a reflection of the German 1800s.
The first part of Syberberg’s remarkable trilogy (followed by Karl May and Hitler, a Film from Germany), this takes the legend of Ludwig II of Bavaria (Wagner’s patron, virgin homosexual, mad visionary, builder of impossible castles, aesthetic recluse) and filters it through the subsequent chaos of German history: the rise of Bismarck and the Prussians at the turn of the century, and the rise of Hitler in the ’30s. It’s constructed as a series of 28 tableaux, which makes it more like a pageant than a conventional drama: it’s full of deliberate disjunctions and contradictions (both Wagnerian stage designs and modern video footage are used as back-projections, for instance), and it feels free to use elements of kitsch (a Nazi rhumba) alongside moments of ‘high art’ (Isolde’s Liebestod) without apparent distinction. The slow pace and ultra-mannered staging compel either fascination or outright rejection. Those fascinated are rewarded with constant surprises and delights, because it’s one of the most beautiful and defiantly original movies of the ’70s.
Subtitles:English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian (muxed), English (srt)