Sissi - Die junge Kaiserin (Sissi: The Young Empress) (1956)

 

 

 

Director:     Ernst Marischka.

Starring:     Romy Schneider (Empress Elisabeth akaSissi),  Karlheinz Bhm (Kaiser Franz Josef),  Magda Schneider (Duchess Ludovika aka Vickie),  Gustav Knuth (Duke Max of Bavaria),  Vilma Degischer (Archduchess Sophie, Franz Josef's mother),  Walter Reyer (Count Andrassy),  Senta Wengraf (Grfin Bellegarde),  Josef Meinrad (Major Bckl),  Ivn Petrovich (Dr. Max Falk),  Helene Lauterbck (Grfin Esterhazy),  Erich Nikowitz (Erzherzog Franz-Karl),  Hans Ziegler (Dr. Seeburger),  Karl Fochler (Graf Grnne). 

second of a trilogy about Austrian Empress Elizabeth (a.k.a., Sissi), wife of Emperor Franz-Joseph

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire film. 

Emperor Franz-Joseph of Austria is back in his office after the wedding ceremonies are all over.  He meets with some of his ministers.  At the Ministerial meeting the major topic was amnesty in Hungary.  The Council of Ministers decided against the Emperor's idea.  It is seen as too dangerous.  Franz-Joseph tells them that he will pass it despite their opposition. 

Archduchess Sophie (mother of Franz-Joseph) speaks with Duchess Esterhazy-Lichenstein alone.  Sophie chose her to watch every movement of Sissi (the Empress).  She even has the Duchess open Sissi's desk drawer and she takes the Empress's diary. 

Bockle brags to his buddy the local telegraph operator that he has been promoted to Major and is to be sent to Vienna.  He will be at Sissi's personal command.  Bockle tells the operator that he has fallen in love with the Empress. 

Sissi is exasperated with studying and says:  "I'll never learn Croatian."  Sophie sends instructions to Sissi for the Spanish court ceremonial.  Sissi can't believe she has to memorize 19 pages of rules of etiquette.  Sophie also has a minister spying on her son.  Sissi is glad that it is now time for her to study her Hungarian, her favorite of the languages.  Her Hungarian teacher shows her paintings of the Imperial palace.  It has been deserted for 523 years.  He wonders when will a king move in and restore freedom to the Hungarian nation.  Sissi says she is very attracted to Hungary.  Her teacher says that the Hungarians love her and her husband. 

Sophie is upset.  She asks her son about his decision to lift the state of siege in Hungary and grant amnesty.  And that is amnesty even for the rebel Hungarian leader Count Andrassy.  So she decides to read her son a poem from his wife's diary.  The poem speaks of her great homesickness for Bavaria and her hometown.  This upsets Franz-Joseph. 

Sissi visits her very busy husband.  She sees her diary on his desk and asks about it.  She is not at all surprised when she is told that it was Sophie's doing.  Franz-Joseph asks her about her homesickness.  She admits that she yearns for her hometown and her family, but says that she's happy as long as he is with her (and yet that's so infrequent).  The Austrian ambassador in Paris, Baron von Hefner, is allowed into the office and finds the royal couple kissing.  He is a bit embarrassed. 

Bockle visits with the Grand Marshalm who explains to the impatient Major that he has to apply for an audience with Her Majesty.  He can't just walk in and expect to see Her Majesty immediately.  Sophie comes in and starts giving Bockle a hard time about his confused reports to her about Sissi.  And the man is standing on her dress.  Sissi comes out and greets Bockle warmly.  She is very glad he came so quickly.  She leaves.  Bockle is so taken by her that he almost faints.  Sissi goes out horse riding.  Her father-in-law greets her.  Sophie learns that Sissi went to the coal market where she was mobbed by admirers and nearly had her dress ripped off her.   

Sissi meets with her husband again.  It is their anniversary.  They were married four weeks ago.  She gives him a painting of different scenic wonders of Austria that she bought at the coal market.  He gives her a new necklace.  They kiss and then go to dinner.  Franz-Joseph has another surprise for his wife.  He has ordered a great Bavarian dinner for her.  Sissi is so happy and almost immediately asks for some Bavarian beer.  And, of course, Sophie does not approve of her daughter-in-law's behavior. 

Back in Bavaria, Sissi's parents receive a letter from her.  She writes that Franz-Joseph worships the very ground she walks on.  In Vienna the Hungarian rebel leader Count Julius Andrassy is back from exile and comes in to see Sissi.  He thanks her for all she has done for his Hungary.  Sissi invites him and other returned exiles to the next court ball.  Andrassy accepts.  Sophie is outraged when she learns that Sissi has invited Austria's "enemies" to the court ball.  At the actual ball, she refuses to be introduced to Count Andrassy.  When Andrassy learns of her answer to an introduction, he tells his people that Sophie has insulted all the Hungarian exiles.  He favors leaving the ball and he gets the support of the other exiles.  The Hungarian Dr. Falk tells Sissi that the Hungarians are leaving.  Now it's Sissi's turn to be upset.  But she has an idea.  It is announced to all that the next dance will be a ladies' choice dance.  Count Andrassy is also informed that the Empress will ask him to dance with her.  So the Hungarians stay.  Sophie is livid. She demands to know who made the change in the court rituals and is not surprised when she learns that Sissi ordered the change.  The wife of Count Andrassy asks Franz-Joseph to dance.  Sophie leaves the court ball in disgust. 

Sissi suddenly faints.  The doctor is called.  He tells her that she must stop her horse riding, at least for awhile.  And that's because she is expecting a child.  Sissi is ecstatic at the news.  In her night gown she runs to tell Franz-Joseph and bursts into an important meeting with the Russians.  Everyone leaves except Franz-Joseph.  He too is extremely happy about the news when he hears it.

Sissi's parents get the news that they are soon to be grandparents.  They are also happy. 

It's a Princess.  Sophie brings the baby granddaughter out for all to see.  Sissi's parents are very proud of their daughter.  The child will be named Sophie.  The Empress visits a children's home and visits the new born babies' ward.  She tells her husband later that the staff should be less reserved and there should be more light allowed into the rooms.  Sissi and Franz-Joseph go to see little Sophie.  But her baby is gone.  She asks Franz-Joseph:  "Where is my child?"  He apologizes.  He did not know that his mother was going to relocate the baby so soon.  His mother has decided she would be the best person to raise the baby and this will give Sissi more time for her imperial duties.  Sissi is both hurt and angry.  She immediately goes to confront her mother-in-law.  But Sophie will not back down.  And her husband supports his mother.  That's it for Sissi.  She tells Bockle that she is leaving and to get everything ready for her departure.  Sophie's spy tells her that Sissi has left.  Sophie tells Franz-Joseph that his wife has left. 

On the way to her home in Bavaria, Bockle stops in Ischl to telegram the Emperor their destination.  When Sissi arrives home her mother is ecstatic.  Her mother keeps asking if anything is the matter, but Sissi will not tell her anything.  Sissi's father and her siblings arrive.  Everyone is happy to see Sissi again, but disappointed she did not bring the baby with her.  Her father invites her to go hunting with him.  Franz-Joseph tells his mother that he is going to get Sissi.  Mom tries to stop him, but he is determined.  While hunting, Sissi waves her hat to scare aware a bird at which father was aiming his rifle.  Dad can tell that something is wrong and he asks her to tell him.  She cries that Sophie tortures her and she took her child away from her.

When Dad returns home his wife notices that something is wrong with him and she asks him to tell her.  But at this time, Franz-Joseph arrives.  He is the one who tells his mother-in-law what happened.  Mom is upset.  She agrees that Sissi should not have run away, but when she learns the whole truth she is completely on Sissi's side.  She tries to explain the emotions of a mother to the relatively dense Franz-Joseph.  And she tells her son-in-law not to blame her daughter.  When Sissi comes down to meet with Franz-Joseph they both lose their anger, embrace and kiss.  They both apologize, but Franz-Joseph makes the bigger concession by saying that things will return to normal before Sophie grabbed the child.  Dad thanks Bockle for sending the crucial telegram to Franz-Joseph.  This gives Bockle a big ego boost.  Franz-Joseph promises to show his wife the mountains of Austria to make her less homesick for her Bavarian mountains.

The royal couple go on a hike accompanied by Bockle and a mountain guide.  Sissi gives everyone a scare when she starts climbing to a mountain peak to get to a Christian cross.  Franz-Joseph climbs to get her two Edelweiss flowers from a mountain side.  They are so happy being almost by themselves that they decide to stay in the nearest mountain inn.  There they have more fun and decide they will stay there for two more days.  They send Bockle and the mountain guide back.  The following morning they awake to fresh snow.  Sissi throws a snowball at her husband. 

Franz-Joseph is back in his office.  He is informed that gossips says that there is a great deal of enmity between Sissi and Sophie.  The only remedy is for the three of them to make a public appearance together as soon as possible.  The three attend a ballet together, but everyone looks a little stiff. 

Sissi informs her husband that she will leave again if she does not get her child back.  Her mother decides to go see her sister Sophie and have a heart-to-heart talk with her.  She gives her best arguments to Sophie, but the lady is still unbending.  And Franz-Joseph really is in need of his wife.  Sissi helped him with the reconciliation with Hungary.  He will be crowned King of Hungary largely because of her.  But Sissi tells her husband that she will not attend the important meeting with the Hungarian delegation. 

The Hungarians are crushed when they learn that the Empress will not be in attendance.  Count Andrassy takes the risk and insists on getting in to see the Empress.  She grants him an audience and he nearly begs her to attend.  He says that they have come to see her, not her husband.  Sissi is still distraught and depressed and simply says:  "I can't."  The Count leaves.  He informs his colleagues that the Empress will not be in attendance.  Sissi goes to talk with her mother. 

At the last second at the meeting Sissi shows up all dressed up for the delegation.  Her husband is very pleased and relieved.  He tells her some happy news.  Sophie has accepted that Sissi is the mother of the child.  The nursery will be relocated near the Empress.  Sissi's mother is so relieved when she hears this news.  Count Andrassy and the Hungarians are all shocked to see the Empress with the Emperor together.  The Count informs the couple that the Hungarians would like to crown the Empress as Queen of Hungary at the same time they crown the Emperor King of Hungary.  Franz-Joseph is in complete agreement with the idea as he had had the same thought.  The Hungarians shout "Salute!" repeatedly in their excitement over the agreement. 

Hungary prepares for the dual coronation.  Franz-Joseph and his wife travel to the celebration place.  He tells his wife that she captured this country of Hungary with her heart alone.  He is very proud of her.  The couple is warmly welcomed by the people of Hungary as they line the roads and the streets of the city.  The two are crowned.  The new King of Hungary promises that he will defend Hungary against all enemies.  Sophie is so moved by the acceptance of her by the people of Hungary that she cries as she stands on the ceremonial platform. 

 

Another entertaining movie.  This one deals with the showdown between Sissi the Empress of Austria and her relatively long-time opponent, her mother-in-law Sophie.  Sissi conquered the Emperor of Austria with her charm, but now she has to use her great fortitude and perseverance in addition to her great charm when when facing down the determined Sophie.  Romy Schneider is again terrific as Sissi. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

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