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In this adaptation of the Thomas Mann novel, avant-garde composer Gustave Aschenbach (loosely based on Gustav Mahler) travels to a Venetian seaside resort in search of repose after a period of artistic and personal stress. But he finds no peace there, for he soon develops a troubling attraction to an adolescent boy, Tadzio, on vacation with his family. The boy embodies an ideal of beauty that Aschenbach has long sought and he becomes infatuated. However, the onset of a deadly pestilence threatens them both physically and represents the corruption that compromises and threatens all ideals. Written by
Eric Wees <email@example.com>
As Aschenbach watches the departing Tadzio just after he twirls on the canopy posts, two young boys are walking hand in hand toward the camera. In the next shot, only one of the boys is seen walking in front of Aschenbach. See more »
Gustav von Aschenbach:
You cannot reach the spirit with the senses. You cannot. It's only by complete domination of the senses that you can ever achieve wisdom, truth, and human dignity.
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A haunting piece of cinema, a true emotional experience, a masterpiece
Luchino Visconti's 'Death in Venice' is one of the most misunderstood masterpieces of cinema. Based on Thomas Mann's 1913 classic novella of the same name, the film not only capture the quintessential of the novel but also reinforce a powerful questioning through superb visuals. Adapted by Mr. Visconti himself who decided to focus on the Venice chapter only as well as to modify the occupation of the main protagonist, Gustav von Aschenbach who becomes a music composer (highly inspired by the composer Mahler), the film was also inspired by other Thomas Mann's novel like 'Doctor Faustus' or by Marcel Proust's writing. Often reduced and presented as a decadent film in which homosexuality and pedophilia are the main themes, the novel like the movie deals in fact with a much more complex and powerful dynamic.
Indeed the film is based on an equation between Death and Beauty as an aphorism for Perfection and in which the results is Time (or the lack of it). Perfection, Beauty is a chimer, pursuing it is pursuing Death as Time is passing by. At first von Aschenbach does not understand why the perfection of the form in his musical composition does not lead to the perfection of his symphony and therefore lose himself in a quest for Beauty following the young Tadzio as not only a symbol for this ultimate Beauty / Perfection but also as the Mask of Death. In this Venice, marked by Death and cursed by the plague, the Time is running out and the fascinating quest for Perfection finally appears to be a dangerous game to play.
All the notions that build up to the main questioning are revealed during this quest for Perfection and this race against Death. The notion of Urgency reinforced by an avoidable sorrow as Von Aschenbach realizes he is getting old in the hair dresser scene. The notion of isolation right from the beginning emphases by the personality of Aschenbach himself and showed by Visconti as someone cold and rigid and therefore alone. The notion of Desire which leads to the understanding of the main questioning: for Aschenbach, Perfection is reached through hard work it is a consequence not a fact. The Young Tadzio blows away this certitude. Does von Aschenbach desire Tadzio or is he fascinated by what he represents: Perfect Beauty?
The challenge of Luchino Visconti was to apply a superb cinematography and a precise narrative method to a film that in nature deals with complex concepts. By succeeding in this task Mr. Visconti delivers a haunting piece of cinema, a true emotional experience, a masterpiece.
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