Interested only in Ludwig of Bavaria as a neurotic individual, Visconti centres everything on the king's fears, sublimations and fantasies. He therefore produces a loving, uncritical portrait of a mad homosexual recluse, whose passions are opera, fairy-tale castles, and exquisite young men. Nothing is more sumptuous than Helmut Berger's performance in the lead, the brooding mad scenes, the deliberately contrived hysterical outbursts, and it takes only a flicker of scepticism to find the whole charade risible. But suspension of disbelief has its own rewards: Visconti's connoisseurship of historical detail and manners is as acute as ever, and his commitment to his subject is total. The film was originally released in cut versions ranging between 186 and 137 minutes; this uncut one, obviously more coherent, simply doubles the interest/boredom rate.
Luchino Visconti, Enrico Medioli, Suso Cecchi D'Amico
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