Devrim Lingnau in “The Empress.” Netflix photo

Directors Florian Cossen and Katrin Gebbe give us an historical fantasy, full of diddling with that history, but still playing out in a glorious and glossy setting.

Shot in Germany, where everything, outside of the big towns, is summer, verdant and lavish.

“The Empress” is full of beautiful gardens, and people playing people who weren’t all so beautiful and nice. Who cares, they’re fun to watch. Here they are.

We meet the Duchess Elisabeth von Wittelsbach, played by a smoldering Devrim Lingnau (“Auerhaus 2019,” and “Carmella” 2019) who is supposed to be 16 at the outset. So what? She’s great to look at.

Devrim, born in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany, has the proper eyes and manners for the role.

The smoke and glamour, and lots of both, begin when she and her sister Helene (Elisa Schlott) and mother (Jordis Triebel) meet Emperor Franz Joseph (Philip Froissant “Black Island” 2021).


Mother dreams of Helene marrying Franz, but Elisabeth and Franz’s eyes collide, and so history and our movie begin.

There’s a lot of back and forth here, but the gorgeous couple gets married, and Helene is set back in line. But don’t dismiss her. She has cards to play in a castle full of sycophants bowing and plotting.

You’ll love and hate them all.

Elisabeth is a strong-willed lass who wants to go to the streets, meet the “dirty folks” and shoot wild boars with the Russian Czar’s hairy son, but she is “Chosen by God” to be the empress and that won’t do.

While we’re watching the two leads touch and feel, kiss and soil the sheets, Franz has a lot of history on his plate. Russia is kicking up dust on the borders, and Franz’s own people are starving in tattered, dirty clothes, while making nice things in the factories for the royal palace, besides plotting a revolution with a spy on the marbled floors.

We can’t give too much away here, but you’re going to meet Franz’s brother Archduke Maximilian (a wonderful Johannes Nussbaum) a real behind-the-drapes villain if there ever was one. You’ll get his number right away.


Episode No. 1 takes a bit to get through all the characters and their individual plots. You have to pay attention until you get to episodes 2 and 3.

That’s where “The Empress” is a train that really gets going. So much happens, that you won’t be taking potty breaks.

You’re going to love Lingnau a lot. She’s got all the right moves going and keeps a few cards hidden under her billowing skirts. She’s already more than good enough for the job.

You’ll want to feel good about Franz. He seems at first to be too young for the job, but under the medals and velvet collars, he’s an Austrian superhero who will take no guff from the Russians, setting up the darkness for the finale. His movie star looks help a lot.

The good news is that you’ll have a good time, and even better, that “The Empress” has already been renewed.

Soon let’s enjoy this splendid, glossy, moving love story, an historic (kind of) film to fill our late summer dreams.

J.P. Devine of Waterville is a former stage and screen actor.

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