Ludwig (sometimes titled Ludwig II) is a 1973 historical biopic directed by Luchino Visconti.
The film recounts the life of king Ludwig II of Bavaria (played by Helmut Berger) from his accession to the throne to his death.
Romy Schneider reprised her most famous role, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (more commonly known as "Sisi"), Ludwig's beloved cousin and another member of the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach by birth, after playing her for the last time in 1957's Sisi - Fateful Years of an Empress. The cast also included Trevor Howard, Gert Fröbe and Silvana Mangano.
Ludwig provides examples of:
- Ambiguous Ending: Ludwig and his personal physician are found dead in a lake outside the castle, with no indication as to whether they were murdered, committed suicide, or died of natural causes. This is true to Real Life, where Ludwig's cause of death remains a mystery.
- Biopic: The film recounts the life of king Ludwig II of Bavaria from his accession to the throne (1864) to his death (1886).
- But Not Too Bi: Ludwig indicates interest in women and men, but his interest in women does not go beyond tenderness and complicity towards Sisi, whereas he has multiple sexual relationships with his male servants.
- Byronic Hero: Ludwig is male, physically attractive, sophisticated, self-centered, emotionally sensitive, brooding... He is extremely passionate. He sees his own passions (for Wagner, for theatre...) as above everything else, including the destiny of his kingdom.
- The Dandy: Ludwig is always well dressed and he always wears many jewels.
- Driven to Suicide: When he hears that the cabinet wants to depose him, Ludwig decides to commit suicide. The ministers prevent him from doing so and he is locked up in a castle. A few days later, his dead body is found, so he has probably killed himself.
- Everything's Sparkly with Jewelry: Ludwig likes jewelry. For example, he wears a hat with a shining jewel on it. He also gives many jewels to his male servants-lovers.
- Framing Device: In the first part of the film (until the cabinet comes to Neuschwanstein to depose the king), each sequence is introduced by the account of someone who testifies in a commission that assesses the mental health of Ludwig.
- The Good Chancellor: Count Dürckheim serves Ludwig faithfully and he gives him good advice to mitigate the king's eccentric personality.
- Gratuitous French: The members of the royal and imperial families use many French words. For exemple, Sisi calls Ludwig "mon cousin".
- How We Got Here: In the beginning, someone tells the audience that he runs a commission that assesses the mental health of Ludwig, in order to check if he can keep on reigning. Then, we return to the accession to the throne.
- Kissing Cousins: A standard practice for the nobility of that era. Ludwig falls for Sisi, then he becomes engaged with Sisi's sister, Sophie. Both of them were his cousins (their grandfather Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria was Ludwig's great-grandfather, so they were his first cousins once removed).
- The Mistress: Cosima von Bülow is Richard Wagner's mistress.
- Sanity Slippage:
- Ludwig's brother Otto gets crazy and he has to be locked up in an asylum.
- The mental health of Ludwig himself declines in the course of the film. In the end of his reign, he lives in a isolated castle with his servants. He refuses to see other people.
- Settle for Sibling: Ludwig falls for Sisi, who is already married, then he becomes engaged with Sisi's sister, Sophie. Subverted, because the wedding is eventually cancelled.
- Many operas by Richard Wagner are mentioned (Tristan und Isolde, The Ring of the Nibelung).
- Ludwig gets a crush on Josef Kainz when he plays Romeo in Romeo and Juliet.
- To please Ludwig, Kainz plays the role of Didier in the theatre play Marion de Lorme by Victor Hugo. Ludwig himself quotes the play when he hears that the cabinet wants to depose him ("Moi, le premier de France, en être le dernier !")
- Warrior Prince: Ludwig's brother Otto fights in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866.