Saturday, December 29, 2018

The last of Sissi

Another recent film watch was Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress, the third and final movie in a trilogy about Austrian empress Elisabeth, "Sissi" being a short name in German for Elisabeth.

This one starts off roughly where the second movie ends, with Sissi (Romy Schneider) in Hungary which had recently been united in the dual monarchy with Austria. There, she rides on hunts with Andrassy (Walther Reyer) and his staff. He's in love with her, but she's so pure and in love with her husband Franz Josef (Karlheinz Böhm) that she'd never consider anything beyond friendship with the nice Andrassy. While in Hungary, Sissi tries to get the leaders of the anti-Austrian faction of Hungarians to come to an amicable political agreement.

But other matters intervene. Sissi coughs and has some aches and pains that just won't go away. Doctors examine her, and determine that she has a lung problem without ever calling it tuberculosis, because of course the Sissi movies are too sweet to allow a dirty word like tuberculosis to show up. In fact, the doctors say that she needs a change of climate from Vienna. Even if she does go abroad for her health, there's no guarantee that she'll ever recover from her illness. Franz Josef is devastated, while his ever-practical mother Sophie (Vilma Degischer) points out that his duty is to produce a healthy male heir. If his current wife can't do that, it's perfectly OK if she dies so that he can remarry and get that male heir. Harsh, but there's geopolitics for you.

Sissi goes off to Madeira (the film uses southern Italy as a stand-in), with Andrassy following behind. Sissi is depressed there,a nd it looks like she's never going ot recover, until her mother (real life mother Magda Schneider) shows up. Sissi miraculously recovers and travels to Greece before returning to Vienna. At this point she has some difficult political visits to Italy to make. If she thought the people of Hungary hated the Austrian monarchy, wait until she sees how the Italians feel.

This last installment of the Sissi series is as ridiculously schmaltzy as the first two, but it's just as fun for it, and impossibly beautiful in its cinematography. There's a reason these movies showed up on TV in central Europe on Christmas for years, as they're the perfect feel-good stuff. If you're looking for accurate history, you're not going to get it, but if you want something nice to look at, this is perfect.

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