ROYAL CHILDREN - ROMY SCHNEIDER & ELIZABETH FROM AUSTRIA, documentary, 45 min., Germany © 1998
Credits: Script & Direction: Birgit Schulz; Co-Direction: Claudia Schmid; Director of Photography: Andreas Fiegel; Editor: Cornelia Zaluskovsky; Commissioning Editor: Andrea Ernst, WDR
ROYAL CHILDREN - ROMY SCHNEIDER AND ELIZABETH FROM AUSTRIA - THE FILM
1854 the Bavarian princess Elisabeth was crowned empress in Vienna. From this moment on the Austrian people idolized the 16 year old and saw her as their lucky charm, turning her into an almost religious figurehead. At a time when the absolute monarch brutally suppressed the ideas of the public democracy, Elisabeth was the personified hope right from the start. The reality of her suddenly isolated life was not understood by her people. The myth about the empress Elisabeth of Austria was used again in the 50's of the 20th century with an aim; the three 'Sissi'–films, with Romy Schneider taking the lead role, hit it off completely with the public in the hard post–war years. Again an adolescent, this time the 16 year old Romy Schneider, became the bridge between two peoples; this sugary distortion of history, a day dream. To the viewing public she is offered as a cure for their loss of identity. The myth of Elisabeth is taking shape again, a distorted myth that, during her entire life, Romy Schneider is not able to put behind her.
The film analyses the structure of the people's projections; projections, which had partly severe consequences for the two women. The film also demonstrates the contrast to the actual persons. It highlights their attempts to escape their own myths and the public sanctions that both women suffered because of it. Why neither Elisabeth of Austria nor Romy Schneider had hardly a chance to escape their own idol is validated on a psychological basis. The opening scene is a montage of the real pictures of the two women that dissolve into Marischka's movie character Sissi. Romy is Sissi is Elisabeth – so the perception of the situation in the 50's.
In the first chapter, the film looks into the constellation that singles the women out for becoming idols; childlike innocence, purity, beauty and naivety. The problems caused by their public role are discussed next; the beginnings that are the foundation for both women's attempts to escape and their problems with addictions. Their radical resistance against public type–casting is the subject of the third part of the film. After that, the restlessness of both women is pictured with their tragic incompetence to find rest in themselves. The penultimate chapter looks at death as part of the myth. The undying Sissi–myth is finally the subject of the last chapter when Elisabeth of Austria and Romy Schneider are dissolved into the Sissi–figure again.