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Blick von Elisabeth1_SunnyiMelles©MichaelCencig_Metafilm
Elisabeth und Warsberg Blick zum Meer2_SunnyiMelles_AlexanderFennon©MichaelCencig_Metafilm
Elisabeth und das Mädchen1_SunnyiMelles_LeonilleWittgenstein©MichaelCencig_Metafilm

Elisabeth – The driven empress

TV Docudrama, 52 mins, 2019
Director: Stefan Ludwig

Empress Elisabeth of Austria spends her life searching for something indefinable, immersing herself in her own appearance, sport and poetry. Shortly before her death, she decides to create her own fairy-tale castle Achilleion on the Greek island of Corfu. The exceptional actress Sunnyi Melles plays Elisabeth as she is rarely seen: a conflicted and fascinating modern woman, rather than the idealised “Sisi” she has become known as.

“Sisi” became renowned internationally as a result of the films starring Romy Schneider, who portrayed the empress as a childishly naive, warm-hearted ruler beloved by the people. But Elisabeth was far more: a driven woman who was not always pleasant but never dull. People were captivated by a personality who could be both passionate and generous and cool and calculating. And who withdrew from her role as empress, even as the Habsburg monarchy was fighting for survival.

Writer and director Stefan Ludwig approaches Elisabeth through the character of Alexander von Warsberg, one of her closest advisers. Largely forgotten now, Warsberg was an Austrian diplomat, passionate about Greece and a close friend of the empress for the last ten years of her life. Together, Warsberg and Elisabeth plan the Achilleion palace on Corfu in which she hopes she will finally find peace.

Warsberg is barely mentioned in most biographies of the empress. The German private historian Robert Holzschuh has spent years tracking down and collecting Warsberg’s private letters. Now, for the first time, it is possible to develop a more comprehensive picture of Elisabeth. The Achilleion acts as a pressure cooker, forcing Elisabeth to reveal her many different faces: a melancholy, romantic and determined woman who rejects traditional models of human existence but is unable to fill the hole in her soul.

The film features Austrian and international experts, including the historians Katrin Unterreiner and Monika Kurzel-Runtscheiner, the French feminist and author Catherine Clément and the Italian literary specialist Matteo Tuveri. The psychoanalyst Walter Hoffmann explores Elisabeth’s complex psyche, and her great-great-grandson Leopold Altenburg provides a family perspective.

A co-production of Metafilm with ORF, ZDF, ARTE
Funded by FERNSEHFONDS AUSTRIA, Filmfonds Wien, Land Niederösterreich


Writer & Director
Stefan Ludwig

Thomas Beckmann

Sound Recordists
Andreas Scheurer / Andreas Traint

Thomas Kathriner

Robert Zapletal

Michael Cencig

Sunnyi Melles / Empress Elisabeth
Alexander E. Fennon / Alexander Warsberg
Clemens Aap Lindenberg / Emperor Franz Joseph
Eszter Hollósi / Marie Festetics