The Wagner Journal

Joseph Horowitz, Ludwig Revisited

Joseph Horowitz, Ludwig Revisited

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March 2019, Volume 13, Number 1, 30–37.

A personal reflection on Visconti’s film 'Ludwig', reissued in a 4½-hour version, and on the king’s relationship with Wagner.

I remember seeing Luchino Visconti’s Ludwig when it was first released in the US in 1973. Helmut Berger’s Ludwig seemed over the top. Trevor Howard, in a brief cameo, at least looked like Wagner. As with any Visconti film, the scenery was luxurious – it was the dominant attribute.

In 1980 – four years after Visconti’s death – the original negative of Ludwig was purchased at an auction, then restored under the supervision of the original script supervisor. This is how it became generally known that Visconti had shot a film more than four hours long. The American version I saw was 137 minutes: barely half the movie.

Last June, I encountered the ‘original’ 264-minute version in a proper theatre with an excellent sound system when it was screened for a full week by New York City’s Film Society of Lincoln Center. 

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