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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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Set in Venice mainly on the Lido, Visconti's "Death in Venice" is a triumph of filmmaking combining the excellence of Dirk Bogarde's characterisation and expert photography of the resort area in all its various daily moods. For those who love Venice, this is a film to cherish.
Mahler's music frequently heard throughout the film heightens the drama. The mood it creates is not always happy. But then what else would you expect with a title like that?
There is not a lot of dialogue in the film. Rather sparse in fact. It's mainly background noises and chatter and laughter among the hotel guests. The intriguing part is to interpret the exchange of glances between Gustav von Aschenbach a composer of some renown and a slim teenage youth Tadzio who see each other from time to time across the tables of the hotel dining room, on the beach and at odd unexpected places around Venice. They seem to acknowledge each other's presence shyly at first with little more than the suggestion of a smile but later with a strong and riveting and urgent gaze.
Each viewer will have his own interpretation. The composer has lost a child of his own. Is this behaviour an expression of yearning for the child he loved? Is it perhaps a sexual attraction towards this fragile young man with his dazed somewhat girlish stare? Could he be discovering some new inspiration for a yet unwritten musical masterpiece? Who knows?
From beginning to end this film captures the true spirit of 19th Century Venice. The elegance of the ladies, the deck chairs on the sand, the children frolicking in their neck-to-knee bathing costumes, the glow of sunsets and a general feeling of satisfaction with the world. While some may think the pace is rather slow at times, the film has an overall gentle quality, but with a simmering indecision between two repressed human beings. Be prepared for a sad and beautiful ending.
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