Hans Castorp, fresh from university and about to become a civil engineer, comes to the Sanatorium Berghof in the Swiss Alps to visit his cousin Joachim, an army officer, who is recovering ...
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Hans Castorp, fresh from university and about to become a civil engineer, comes to the Sanatorium Berghof in the Swiss Alps to visit his cousin Joachim, an army officer, who is recovering there from tuberculosis. Intending to remain at the Berghof for three weeks, Hans is gradually contaminated by the morbid atmosphere pervading the place. Wishing very much to be considered a patient like the others, he achieves his ends and stays in the sanatorium for ...seven years. During this time, he has enough time to take part in the furious philosophical debates pitting against each other Settembrini, a secular humanist, and Naphta, a totalitarian Jesuit. And to fall in love with the beautiful but enigmatic Clawdia Chauchat. When he is finally discharged in 1914 - along with all the other patients - it is only to plunge into the horrors of World War I. Written by
Hans W. Geissendörfer's film of Mann's great novel meets its challenges well. It's long, like the book, and it's discursive, like the book, but it works in cinematic ways too. The director's screenplay solves the most nagging problem of adapting THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN--how to deal with the long monologues of Settembrini and others--by simply reducing them to their essence. Yes, a lot is left out, and we really only get a taste of what the garrulous characters are all about, but this seems the best solution. There is a lot in the novel that lends itself to a film treatment. Some sources tell us that no expense was spared in bringing the Berghof Sanatorium to life, and this certainly shows on the screen. Readers of the novel should be pleased with this aspect of the realization: a Grand Hotel for the sick and dying, where nearly every manner of psychological and philosophical drama is played out in some way. This is a sumptuously mounted film--to be taken seriously, it could be no other way. The cast, too, is well-chosen and up to the task. As the most important figure, Christoph Eichhorn has a full grasp of Hans Castorp and he never falters. Numerous minor roles are filled with fine detail by superb performers. Uncle James Tienappel, Dr. Krokowski, Cousin Joachim Ziemßen, the devoted Fräulein Engelhart, the hysterical Marusja, all come to believable life. In major roles, Rod Steiger, Marie-France Pisier, Charles Aznavour and Flavio Bucci inspire no criticism either. Steiger (dubbed in German, as are several others), perhaps unexpectedly, avoids exaggerating his Mynheer Peperkorn while capturing the over-sized visions of the character. The beautifully filmed imagery in this film is underscored by a strong musical score by Jürgen Knieper. It evokes Mahler, Wagner and Strauss, without ever actually quoting them, and enhances the fin-de-siècle mood. English speakers had to wait a long time to see this made-for-TV film. It has been worth the wait. Highly recommended.
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