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Bavaria, 1864: Just 18, Crown Prince Ludwig is a striking young man. Tall and good-looking, he is passionate about the grim, brooding works of Richard Wagner with every fiber of his heart and soul. When King Maximilian II unexpectedly dies, Ludwig is proclaimed King of Bavaria and cheered enthusiastically by his subjects, who have put all their hopes for a better future in him. But he is naive, and soon has more enemies than friends. He believes in a better world and wants his people to live in peace and happiness. And to achieve this, his kingdom will become a center of beauty, ruled by the arts. His ministers can’t understand why he refuses to buy new weapons...

Suspicious of the palace courtiers, Ludwig surrounds himself with commoners who swear loyalty to him. He seeks friendship where love should blossom, and love where passion is forbidden. Richard Wagner skillfully manipulates Ludwig’s passion. His grandiose operas cast their spell on the young ruler, who seems ready to bankrupt his nation to foster Wagner’s monumental plans. But war is on the horizon, as Prussia sets its sights on establishing a German Empire. Bavaria needs a resolute king; but not even Ludwig’s beloved cousin Elisabeth, Empress of Austria, can convince him to address matters of state rather than devote himself to art.

The war is lost, and Bavaria’s independence with it. Ludwig retreats into his dream world, ransacking the royal coffers to build the palaces of his visions. The sun begins to set on Ludwig’s life, but his legend has already taken root...