Both trifles and structure are tossed out the door by director Ken Russell in this film. Here, historical content matters not so much as metaphors, feelings, emotions, and interpretations, ... See full summary »

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Won 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »
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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
Georgina Hale ...
Lee Montague ...
Miriam Karlin ...
Aunt Rosa
Rosalie Crutchley ...
Gary Rich ...
Young Mahler
Richard Morant ...
Max
Angela Down ...
...
...
Nick
Peter Eyre ...
Otto Mahler
Dana Gillespie ...
George Coulouris ...
Doctor Roth
...
Arnold Yarrow ...
Grandfather
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Storyline

Both trifles and structure are tossed out the door by director Ken Russell in this film. Here, historical content matters not so much as metaphors, feelings, emotions, and interpretations, and pay close attention, as every word and frame is intended to be important. The film takes place on a single train ride, in which the sickly composer Gustav Mahler and his wife, Alma, confront the reasons behind their faltered marriage and dying love. Each word seems to evoke memories of past, and so the audience witnesses events of Mahler's life that explain somewhat his present state. Included are his turbulent and dysfunctional family life as a child, his discovery of solace in the "natural" world, his brother's suicide, his [unwanted] conversion from Judiasm to Catholicism, his rocky marriage and the death of their young child. The movie weaves in and out of dreams, flashbacks, thoughts and reality as Russell poetically describes the man behind the music. Written by Jonathan Dakss <dakss@columbia.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Genres:

Biography | Drama | Music

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »
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Details

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Release Date:

February 1975 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Brinnande extas  »

Company Credits

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(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Cameo: [Oliver Reed] a train conductor blowing a whistle as Mahler's train is about to pull out of the station. See more »

Goofs

When Mahler's train leaves St. Pölten, a sign is visible identifying the town as "Saint Pölten". Yet, the German long script for the town is "Sankt Pölten". See more »

Quotes

Max: [laughs] I can't remember - what religion are you?
Gustav Mahler: I... am a composer.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Brows Held High: The Devils (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

Frere Jacques
(uncredited)
Traditional
[Played on the accordion by Old Nick (Ronald Pickup)]
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User Reviews

 
Excessive and indulgent with moments of beauty.
2 May 2012 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

This Ken Russell 'biopic' follows the composer Gustav Mahler as, nearing the end of his life, he recalls his life and music through surreal dream sequences during a train journey. Like the great man's music, this film is at times intense, powerful, moving and beautiful. However, at other times it is confusing, indulgent and over-the-top, something which Mahler's music never was, I should add. That's Ken Russell I suppose, and if you can get past the tiresome dream sequences and focus on the imaginative ones (of which there are many) then you will really enjoy this underrated vision of musical genius. Russell conveys the feelings of awe and wonder of the musical world better than any other director in history. No doubt this is to do with his good track record of composer's films but also a deep personal investment into the subject matter. Robert Powell expertly plays the composer as an intense man beyond any human understanding of neurosis, filled with repressed anxiety. The film is excessive, almost irritatingly so, but ultimately filled with great moments.


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