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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>
Tom Courtenay said at the premiere that he felt Alec Guinness should have played Aschenbach, because then the audience would have believed that he was the great composer - "with Dirk, you never felt he was." See more »
TV aerials clearly visible on Venetian rooftops in one scene. See more »
In all the world, there is no impurity so impure as old age.
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A visionary masterpiece (but not for those with short attention spans)!
Turn-of-the-century Venice is depicted in all its elegance and decay through the eyes of a composer who knows he has little time left to live. The composer is obsessed not just with beauty, but with the ideas behind beauty, and his theories are slowly proved wrong when he finds himself infatuated with a beautiful teenage boy. He becomes obsessed with the boy and amidst the backdrop of a city quietly dying with a plague, he simply observes and ponders, trying his best to keep his desires at bay.
The core of the film is in Dirk Bogarde's performance. As there is little dialogue in the film, he must act with his eyes and through his mannerisms, and he never falters. In the reflection of his eyes we see beauty as it is distinguished in the depths of all of our souls (well, those of us who have souls!). We see the awe, the pain, the fever, the fear, the desire and the ultimate surrender all in that forlorn face.
The music (most of it by Gustave Mahler) also reflects all this, and Visconti's incredible photography of the decaying Venice pinpoints the end of an era in a way that is both dreamlike and unsentimental (despite the romantic quality of the film).
The film is slow and langorous, like the hush of the ocean sweeping the shore. For those who like the visual quality of dreams and the somber romanticism of adagios, this film will be something to cherish forever.
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