Film - Feature | November 18 | 2-6 p.m. |  Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

 Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

In the life of Ludwig II, the “mad king” of Bavaria, Visconti found a fit subject for his own transcendent sense of spectacle. Ludwig was a tragic figure who made an art out of life itself: born into extreme wealth, he chose to pursue happiness in the realm of the sublime—in art and matters of the heart—but he never achieved anything close to happiness. Nor did his soul “fly free” of his body. He built magnificent fairytale castles in the Bavarian sky and patronized a series of artists, including Richard Wagner, who used him cynically. Increasingly disillusioned, the “Swan King” grew dissolute, sealing his doom. Visconti places Ludwig, portrayed by Helmut Berger, in context, seducing us with opulent visuals, holding us at bay with the passion play that was Ludwig’s life. Romy Schneider is a figure of compassion amid scoundrels as Ludwig’s cousin, the Empress Elizabeth of Austria, and Trevor Howard lends his own dark passion to his portrayal of Richard Wagner.

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