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Mahler (1974)

Composer Gustav Mahler's life, told in a series of flashbacks as he and his wife discuss their failing marriage during a train journey.

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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:
...
...
Lee Montague ...
Miriam Karlin ...
Aunt Rosa
...
Gary Rich ...
Young Mahler
...
Max
Angela Down ...
...
...
Nick
...
Otto Mahler
Dana Gillespie ...
...
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 Here, historical content matters not so much as metaphors, feelings, emotions, and interpretations, and pay close attention, as every word and frame is intended to be important.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:

Малер  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Color:

(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

O Du Lieber Augustine
(uncredited)
Traditional, also attributed to Marx Augustin
[Heard as a theme during the swimming scene]
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User Reviews

 
Mahler gets a Ken Russell treatment.
12 November 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Like Tchaicovksy before him composer Gustav Mahler gets cuffed about in grand fashion in this bio on his life by Ken Russell. Russell as usual pulls no punches while landing some low blows in this brilliantly sardonic take on the composer conductor's life and career.

Gustav Mahler ( Robert Powell ) ill but unaware he' ll be dead within a year rides exhausted aboard a train across the Eurpeon landscape with his wife whose looking to get off at the next stop with a lover. In the depths of despair he reflects upon his past; a brutal father, a brothers suicide, a death of a child infidelity , religious conversion to attain status as well as the immediate problem of holding onto his wife.

Such downward spiral tragedy is prime Bergman territory but in the hands of Infant Terrible Russell it is a wild, irreverent , dark humored ride down the tracks accompanied by the composers magnificent writings both skillfully and comically matched to imagery and situation. Cosima Wagner as a Brunhilde Nazi, the impoverished siblings as the Marx Brothers, the sacrilegious conversion rite intermixed with scenes of pastoral beauty that inspired him unfold at a rapid and provocative tempo.

Powell is a dead ringer for the composer and he does a commendable job of conveying his ego, cynicism and vulnerability huddled in his exclusive passenger car. It is Russell's jaundice and vivid interpretation though that will leave the viewer mesmerized or revolted. With Ken's films there is no in between.


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