Visconti's lavish portrait of Ludwig II, the 'Mad King' of Bavaria. From his glittering coronation to his mysterious suicide, Ludwig II (Helmut Berger) epitomised the doomed nineteenth-century Romantic hero. A loner by nature, he was tormented by his unrequited love for his cousin, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (Romy Schneider), who sensed his true sexual nature and fragile grip on reality. But as war raged around him, Ludwig's sole obsession remained the visionary music of Richard Wagner (Trevor Howard), and he retreated more and more into a fantasy world, alarming his ministers through his irrational behaviour, neglect of state affairs and lavish expenditure on several fairytale castles. Judged unfit to rule, Ludwig was eventually declared insane.