I was rather sceptical about reviewing a four hour biopic about a Bavarian king while the World Cup is on (I could almost play a little game and try to mention 1966 as many times as possible, eh? Maybe not) and the weather is getting ever so slightly better (thank you, global warming). However, I shall cast all these distractions aside and start the review.

The story behind Ludwig is a rather tragic one. A young man becomes king of Bavaria, providing him with the freedom to explore his love of art, music and young men in a decadent lifestyle that ultimately leads to his downfall. Eat your heart out, Keith Richards.

Helmut Berger has the honour of playing the king and portrays all his emotions from ecstasy to despair impeccably, capturing the feeling of a man bound by his duty, yet led by his heart.

Trevor Howard shines as the ever-opportunistic composer Richard Wagner, with his manipulative wife Cosima (Silvana Mangano), who wants to use Ludwig's love for music to climb the social ladder. Their performances help to emphasise the tragic aspects of the young king's life.

The set pieces are beautiful, with wondrous scenery and lavish costumes, which bring this period drama to life. Also, the colour is muted, which provides a perfect contrast to the opulent splendour.

Luchino Visconti is a director who thrives on the melodramatic and here expertly brings out the madness of an enigmatic king. Ludwig is considered one of his masterpieces, epic in length and scale. Some say it reflects the director's personality.

The film is not for the faint-hearted, as the running time is just over four hours, but if you stick with it, you will not be disappointed.

They don't make them like this any more.

Reviewed on: 19 Jun 2006
Share this with others on...
Ludwig packshot
The king of Bavaria struggles with his inner demons.
Amazon link

Director: Luchino Visconti

Writer: Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Enrico Medioli, Luchino Visconti

Starring: Helmut Berger, Romy Schneider, Trevor Howard, Silvana Mangano, Helmut Griem, Nora Ricci, Gert Frobe, John Moulder Brown, Izabella Telezynska, Umberto Orsini, Sonia Petrovna, Folker Bohnet, Heinz Moog, Adriana Asti, Marc Porel, Mark Burns

Year: 1972

Runtime: 245 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: France/Italy/West Germany


Search database: