Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ludwig:Requiem for the Virgin King (1972)

First part of Han-Jurgen Syberberg's trilogy of films that ends with Hitler:A Film from Germany. concerns Ludwig, last King of Bavaria. Its not so much a straight forward biography as a fantasia on Ludwig his life and the people in his life, especially Richard Wagner.

If you don't know about Ludwig, Wagner or German history from the mid 19th century don't even think of seeing this film. You will be hopelessly lost. The film refers to a great many events both directly and indirectly and you need some sort of foundation to know what you are looking at . At the same time you need to have a little bit of knowledge concerning the life and work of Wagner, other wise you won't get the references that appear in music cues and characters appear. (The film opens with the Rhine maidens from Wagner's Ring Cycle)

Shot in a highly theatrical style, almost all of the film involves either rear screen projection. There is no reality except on the projection screen. Every one stands in a tableau  People don't have conversations they speak monologues, some to the people around them, some to the audience. Some people sing. It's like watching a film from the time of Georges Melies mashed with a static art theater piece. This is not casual viewing.

The film forms the first part of a trilogy about the state of Germany and how the country got to it's place in the 1970's.  Watching the film after seeing Hitler, I find that the film is greater when viewed as part of a larger work. Themes and ideas that cross through Hitler are seen to have a root here. Ideas that are referenced in the later film are given full play in this earlier one.

As of this writing I haven't seen the second film Karl May, about the life of the extremely popular western author, but having seen this film I am looking forward to it.

Do I like this film? Yes. But I was prepared for it. If you are an adventurous film goer with knowledge of German history and the music of Richard Wagner, I recommend you give this film a shot, but be warned it may try your patience.

No comments:

Post a Comment