Our story begins in 1867. Sissi is already Empress and wife of Franz Joseph I and about to take a decisive step for her Empire and People. She is about to address Parliament in Budapest in an attempt to convince the Hungarians not to abandon the Hapsburg Empire which they have been supporting and without which the Empire risked falling apart. This is a delicate moment and Sissi, as she walks through the long corridors of the castle is also reviewing other significant moments in her life which have led her here. From the wild horse rides through her Bavarian forests, to the day her mother made her accompany her sister Helene, known as Nenè, to meet the Emperor, to the moment she first exchanged glances with Emperor Franz Joseph I, which would radically change her destiny. And then, to her love for Franz, their marriage, the children, the wars, and grieving for her first born, the pain and re-birth, the arrival of the long awaited heir and first son, and finally the difficult and complex relationship with her mother-in-law Sofia, the rigid and inflexible custodian of the Empire’s values and principles that immediately clashed with her lively intelligence and independent will.
Sissi’s love managed to chip away at the immovable principles of Franz’s military education, assisting him in understanding the changes occurring around him and guiding him towards a different epoque. Sissi will win her battle not only on a private level, standing up to the Archduchess for the right to educate her own children, but also on a political level. Thanks to her strength and charm, she regains her full status as Empress, and through her words, love and passion manages to save the Hapsburg Empire from a certain end.
This two part film project cost over eleven million Euro and was a TV co-production without parallel, produced by Publispei for Italy, in collaboration with Rai Fiction (TV series branch of Italian State TV), Sunset Austria for ORF, EOS Entertainment and ZDF. There were over 2000 background actors who took part in filming, set in historical locations like the Hofburg Palace, Vienna, the castle and the gardens of the Schönbrunn Palace, the Eckartsau Castle in Lower Austria, the Brunnsee Castle in Steiermark and the Miramare Castle in Trieste, alongside a selection of locations around Venice. For filming at the Miramare Castle a period ship was transported to Trieste and anchored in the Mediterranean Sea. The filming with 20 historically period accurate horse-drawn carriages, with 100 horses was particularly demanding. To film the Golden Carriage used by Sissi and Franz Joseph I for their wedding ceremony, an original carriage actually dating back to 1740 was used lent by the Archbishop of Olomouc (Czech Republic) and drawn by 6 horses. The film made use of 700 period costumes; the character of the Empress alone would have 50 changes, made to measure by the best Italian dressmakers, from local Italian made materials.
A huge undertaking behind this challenge to re-tell the story in an innovative way, after over fifty years – to show the life, beauty and feelings of Elizabeth, Empress of Austria.