The second in a trilogy of movies about Elisabeth "Sissi" of Austria, the film chronicles the married life of the young empress as she tries to adjust to formal and strict life in the palace and an overbearing mother-in-law.
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For many people ,Sissi is Romy Schneider,who portrayed the empress four times ,in the Marischka trilogy and in Visconti's "Ludwig" (1972) which the actress considered the true historically accurate portrait of Elisabeth.
The Marischka trilogy was closer to fairy tale,avoiding all the tragic moments (Sophie's death,Solferino,Sadowa,the war and its horrors);it also flouted chronology -for instance ,Rudolph was not at the ceremony in Hungary whereas he was already a little boy.
This MTV work is enjoyable,because,by and large,chronology is respected ;it must have been hard for C. Catopondi to reprise such a part ,but she managed quite well in her portrayal ,which's got something of dear Romy;David Rott,on the other hand ,if you look at the monarch's early pictures, is physically closer to young Francis- Joseph than Karl Heinz Boehm.
Here,the screenwriters put the emperor in a slightly less charming light than we've been used to seeing him in ;he is self- conscious,cheated by Napoleon the third -whereas his wife knows better-;although he hated war,he waged two of them ,filling the hospitals where they gathered the crippled,the maimed,the wounded,the legless,and the armless.On the other hand ,the movie does not depict the people's poverty (Sissi hints at these women who fight against hunger,visits an orphanage ,and that's it:note the sharp contrast with Schneider's visit to the crèche ,in "Sissi Die Junge Kaiserin")
All that concerns the emperor and his brother Max does not ring true;after Solferino disaster,Maximilian was very popular and Franz- Joseph did not like him that much;he did not really urge him to give up on his dream:to become a true emperor himself;he actually wanted to get rid of him ,and before he left for his doomed fate,made sure he would lose his rights and titles in Austria,a deprivation which would extend to his heirs if his wife Charlotte -who has some brief appearances in the movie-had children (which did not happen ).The two persons who tried to make Max change his mind were Sissi and mainly Archduchess Sophie (Max was her favorite child,and it shows in the movie).
Some people complain that the saga should stop with the coronation ceremony in Hungary;but it is actually a smart decision:Sissi's political role and involvement in the government became slowly but inexorably nonexistent afterward;she was the official empress,but ,most of the time ,she was away from the court she always shunned because she could not stand the etiquette (in his "Ludwig",Visconti showed this vital side of the character)
The movie does not pass over in silence Rudolph's "education" before Sissi showed her strong will over his upbringing;the movie does not ,however,show the worst "Knocking into shape" :"blank cartridges were fired without warning in his room to test his reactions ,an experiment which may have had disastrous effects on the Crown Prince in later life" (Alan Palmer,"twilight of the Habsburgs,the life and times of emperor FJ")
It is no masterpiece ,but it's a movie which possesses considerable appeal for people who saw the mushy trilogy when they were younger.
People hungry for more ,as far as the Mexican adventure is concerned ,should try and see William Dieterle's "Juarez" (1939),in which Bette Davis portrays Charlotte ,although modern studies have shown that the emperor's brother's and wife's relationship was actually extremely ambiguous.
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