When I’m missing my favorite city, Vienna, I watch a movie about it. One of my favorites is the impossibly romantic film “The Crown Prince,” made in 2006. The film tells the story of Rudolf, son of Emperor Franz Joseph and the fabled beauty Empress Elisabeth. Rudolf tried for years to win the respect of his autocratic father and to convince his father that the empire needed to change with the times. Franz Joseph was immovable. His son Rudolf was forced into a dreary arranged marriage. The more Rudolf urged reforms, the more Franz Joseph pushed him out of the centers of power. Eventually Rudolf began an affair with an adoring and foolish young woman, Baroness Mary Vetsera.
The two lovers died in a suicide pact at Rudolf’s hunting lodge, Mayerling, in 1889. The royal family tried to cover up the truth, and details remain murky to this day. But the heir to the empire was gone and the inevitable decline of the empire accelerated. By 1918, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was no more.
The film is a leisurely 3 hours, with plenty of time to explore the gilded but stultifying court life Rudolph had to endure. I especially like the street scenes; many parts of Vienna have not changed much in the past century. The director was Robert Dornhelm. Max Van Thun plays Rudolph, and the lovely Vittoria Puccini plays Mary Vetsera.
Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe!