Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Sissi (5 Stars)


I've known about this film for many years, but I never felt inclined to watch it. A story of princes and princesses sounds like a girly film, something aimed at the pre-teen market. After finally watching it today my reaction is, "Wow! Why did I wait so long?"

The film is well known in German speaking countries, but not in other countries. It was made in 1955. It's about the early years of the woman who became the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, one of the world's longest reigning rulers, from 1848 to 1916. Elisabeth, nicknamed Sissi, was married to him from 1854 until her death in 1898. The film keeps close to the historical facts, as far as they are recorded, but adds touches of drama, humour and romance. Lots of romance.

Franz Josef was born in 1830 and became Emperor of Austria at the age of 18. It was a time of turmoil and military conflicts in Europe. Franz's mother Sophie was a skilled diplomat who understood that it was necessary for her son to marry a princess from another country to secure peace. He rejected all the early suggestions made by his mother, saying he was too young to marry. Shortly before his 23rd birthday his mother said that Austria desperately needed an ally, so he should marry as quickly as possible. She suggested her niece Helene, the daughter of the sister, who was married to Duke Maximilian of Bavaria. When Franz met Helene he found her uninteresting, but because she was physically attractive he agreed to marry her. However, he met Helene's younger sister Sissi and immediately fell in love with her. They shared similar interests, especially a love of hunting and walking in the mountains, so they were the perfect match. Franz proposed to Sissi on his 23rd birthday, but because she was only 15 at the time he waited a year before marrying her.


"Sissi" is one of the most successful films ever in Germany. When it was released 25 million cinema tickets were sold, which was remarkable for a country with a population of 52 million. Even though the film dealt with royal families it had the style of the popular German Heimatfilme. After all, Sissi's father was hardly a typical monarch. He liked to sit and drink beer with his friends rather than attend to affairs of state. Sissi inherited this rebellious spirit from him. It was the right film made at the right time. Germans were yearning to be reminded of the good days they had before the war.

The film made me laugh and cry. I know that many of my readers might pass it by because of its subject matter. I ignored it for years, and now I regret it. Please don't wait as long as me.

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