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... See full summary »
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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>
Dirk Bogarde based his appearance on that of the distinguished composer/conductor Gustav Mahler, whose Fifth and Third Symphonies were adapted as background music for the film. See more »
(at around 1h 13 mins) Tadzio plays Beethoven's "Für Elise" in the hotel lounge but his fingers are in the very top range of the piano, some two or three octaves higher than the sound we actually hear. See more »
Beauty Found and Lost in Venice: Mann + Mahler +Visconti = a Masterpiece
I first saw "Death in Venice" 1971) about 15 years ago, found it profoundly moving and often thought about it. Watching it again few days ago, I realized that it is close to the top of the great works of cinema. With hardly any dialog it captivates a viewer with the beautiful cinematography, the fine acting, and, above all, the Mahler's music without which the movie simply could not exist.
"Death in Venice" is a stunning Luchino Visconti's adaptation of the Thomas Mann novella about a famous composer (in the novella he was a writer but making him a composer in a movie was a great idea that works admirably) Gustav von Aschenbach (loosely based on Gustav Mahler) who travels to Venice in the summer of 1911 to recover from personal losses and professional failures. His search for beauty and perfection seems to be completed when he sees a boy of incredible divine beauty. Ashenbach (Dirk Bogard) follows the boy everywhere never trying to approach him. The boy, Tadzio, belonged to very rare creatures that own an enigmatic and inconceivable power which captivates you, enchants you, conquers you and makes you its prisoner. Ashenbach became one of the prisoners of Tadzio spellbinding charms. He became addicted to him; he fell in love with him. Was it bless or curse for him? I think both. He died from unreachable, impossible yet beautiful love which object was perfection itself. The last image Ashenbach's eyes captured was that of the boy's silhouette surrounded by the sea and golden sun light. Nothing could compare to the beauty and charm of the scene and to take it with you to the grave is the death one can only dream about. If he could, Ashenbach probably would've said, "I was able to witness one of the faces of perfection, I could not bear it but I was chosen to learn that it exists here, in this world and I can die in peace now because it did happen to me."
Unforgettable music, Gustav Mahler's haunting adagietto of his Fifth Symphony found perfect use in a perfect movie. It reflects every emotion of a main character - it sobs, it longs, it begs for hope, and it summarizes the idea that once you are blessed to encounter beauty you are condemned to die. I may come up with hundreds movies that use classical music to perfection but nothing will ever compare to "Death in Venice". I dare say that Mahler's music IS its main character - it would change and sound differently depending on what was happening on the screen. It sounded triumphantly when Ashenbach returned back to Venice, to what he thought would be his happiness but turned to be his death. It sounded gloomy when he first entered Venice from the sea. You can hear so many different feelings in it - tenderness and adoration, confusion and self-loathing, worship and melancholy, but always - LOVE that gives the purest happiness and breaks the hearts (literally). The movie for a viewer is similar to what the boy was for the aging composer/writer/Artist. We are enchanted and captivated by its power and beauty as much as Achenbach was by the boy's mysterious charm.
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