Ludwig: Requiem for a Virgin King (Hans-Jürgen Syberberg / West Germany, 1972):
(Ludwig: Requiem für einen jungfräulichen König)

The prelude juxtaposes Lola Montez the historical mistress with La Dietrich’s Lola-Lola, revealing Chuck Jones (cf. Bugs Bunny as Brunhilde) as Hans-Jürgen Syberberg’s sturdy foundation. Ludwig II (Harry Baer), Bavarian heir, dreamer, builder, squanderer, magpie, cuckoo-clock figurine, archangel. "Let us listen to their kingly babble." Part One: The Curse. Valkyries (Das Rheingold) are hoochie-coochie wrigglers, the court is a rear-projection effect, kitsch for the "monarch of kitsch." Wacky brother Otto (Siggi Graue) takes over the throne after a cabinet of waxworks banishes Ludwig to the castles and grottos of Part Two, Once Upon a Time I Was. The purpose is to shoot Rossellini’s period recreations to Mars, shifts in film texture (a moon-faced peasant delivers a monologue through a syrupy coat of amber) and Brechtian interludes ("The bastard Count Holstein sings the Song of Betrayal") are the norm. The list of Special Guest Phantoms includes the Empress Elisabeth, a tangoing Hitler, and Karl May escorted by a lipsticked Winnetou; Wagner is the Rhine’s sad overthrown father, and, mimed by Gerhard Maerz and Anette Tirier, just the kind of hermaphroditic aesthete to give birth to Ludwig. "Did he really exist, or did we create him as our fantasy?" Legends here are the people’s necessary opium, art is "the serenest form of existence" -- canvases by Boucher and Fragonard become the king’s oversized dioramas, Tristan and Isolde is something for him to doze off to. Ludwig’s interminable sleigh ride through the arctic countryside is the central sensation, like a dilation from The Magnificent Ambersons. (Snow falls, or is it sawdust?) An analytical fairy-tale about culture, identity, sacred monsters, and the "mystic and unknowable" effect of earfuls from the Lone Ranger radio show erupting into a Germanic soundtrack. Syberberg’s creatures live and die by such paradisiacal simulacra -- Ludwig is sent to the guillotine only to be resurrected as a yodeling Camp emblem. Cinematography by Dietrich Lohmann. With Ingrid Craven, Peter Kern, Oscar van Schab, Edgar Murray, Ursula Strätz, Hanna Köhler, and Günther Kaufmann.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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