With the gay emperor’s brother “Luziwuzi”: New Sisi series on Netflix

With the gay emperor’s brother “Luziwuzi”: New Sisi series on Netflix
With the gay emperor’s brother “Luziwuzi”: New Sisi series on Netflix

The Sisi or Sissi wave continues to rise. Now the Netflix series “The Empress” is starting – so to speak, “The Crown” shot in Franconia and set in Austria in the 1850s.

Next year is the 125th anniversary of her death and this year on Christmas Eve her 185th birthday: But that can hardly explain why the Austrian Empress Elisabeth from Bavaria – pop culture usually called Sissi, historically correct Sisi – is so popular again as a subject. The current wave produced the RTL series “Sisi” in 2021 and Marie Kreutzer’s film “Corsage” in 2022. Karen Duve’s dissecting novel “Sisi” has just been published. And now it’s the turn of the German Netflix series “The Empress” (international: “The Empress”) (from Thursday).

Devrim Lingnau (born in Mannheim) and Philip Froissant (born in Bad Tölz) can be seen as the imperial couple. In six one-hour episodes, “The Empress” tells the story of the young woman’s first months at the intriguing court of Franz Joseph I in Vienna. Here Sisi also shoots down a wild boar and the Emperor says “shit”.

Unlike its competitor RTL with Dominique Devenport and Jannik Schümann in the lead roles (the second season is coming soon), where the couple’s conflict-ridden romance took up a lot of space, the focus here is more on the narrow, strict roles at court. The politics of the Habsburgs are dealt with more. Some storylines sound creepily topical: Russia is massing troops on a border, acting as an unpredictable aggressor.

Of course, especially in German-speaking countries, every new Sisi film has to be comparable to the “Sissi” cinema trilogy of the 1950s. Romy Schneider and Karlheinz Böhm went down in film history with them. Even almost seven decades after the masterful kitsch penned by Ernst Marischka, the three post-war works are still present in the collective memory. They run again and again as a holiday program on linear television.

The “Kaiserin” producers emphasize that many young people “don’t even know the old Sissi films anymore”, which enables “a fresh and individual interpretation of Elisabeth and Franz”.

And so it’s not very sweet in the series (head author: Katharina Eyssen; directors: Katrin Gebbe and Florian Cossen). Humiliations, a devious court, coup plans, murders, police violence and executions occur.

There is great poverty in the Empire, and strict regimentation at the Viennese court: Elisabeth’s aunt and mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie, feels surrounded by weak men and pulls many strings. In this role, Melika Foroutan brilliantly follows in the footsteps of Désirée Nosbusch (RTL) and Vilma Degischer (50s cinema).

Elisabeth, who doesn’t like her nickname “Sisi” at all, not only fights with a nasty mother-in-law, but also with her own mother Ludovika (Jördis Triebel), who she doesn’t love at all and threatens with the “madhouse” – very different from Romy’s mother Magda Schneider ).

Eccentric “Luziwuzi”

The charming, ambitious and younger emperor’s brother Maximilian (beautifully exaggerated, almost Kinski-like: Johannes Nussbaum) has his very own political and moral ideas. And the very young emperor’s brother “Luziwuzi”, i.e. Ludwig Viktor (Felix Nölle), who later became gay, shows eccentric features as a small boy.

The series was shot in Studio Babelsberg (Potsdam) and in Franconia – in cities like Bamberg, Bayreuth and Ansbach. The (often computer-generated) look of the series is pompous, even if it is anything but authentic or even documentary, because nothing here looks like the real Possenhofen, Bad Ischl or Schönbrunn Palace. If that is important to you, you shouldn’t start watching.

The Netflix streaming service is experienced with opulent costume series, think of “The Crown” about the life of Queen Elizabeth II or the much-discussed production “Bridgerton”, which is set in 19th-century London high society.

The real Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary was assassinated in Geneva in 1898, her first daughter died at the age of two, her son and Crown Prince Rudolf committed suicide in 1889 at the age of 30. The life of the beautiful and long-suffering empress can hardly be surpassed in terms of splendor in her youth and drama in her later years. It has a tremendous drop. This is probably why Sisi became a global fascination – a brand “made in Bavaria and Austria”.

Now the “largest streaming entertainment service in the world” (Netflix self-description) has discovered the life of the empress as material – and there are still many years left after season one.

Cult around Elisabeth/Sisi/Sissi

There have been a few Sisi waves in recent decades. After the 1950s movies “Sissi”, “Sissi – the young empress” and “Sissi – fateful years of an empress”, Romy Schneider, who rejected a fourth “Sissi” film in the late 1950s despite the high fee, played the role that stuck to her at the beginning the seventies again in a more enlightened version – for star director Luchino Visconti in the Bayern king epic “Ludwig II.”.

The musical “Elisabeth” (music: Sylvester Levay; libretto: Michael Kunze) was created in the early nineties. It premiered in 1992 at the Theater an der Wien. In it, the life of the empress is told as a constant dance with death. It is considered “the most successful German-language musical” ever. Like this year, it will be performed again at Schönbrunn Palace in the summer of 2023.

More queer culture:

» at sissymag.de

The article is in German

Tags: gay emperors brother Luziwuzi Sisi series Netflix

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