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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War veterans visit a lakeside cabin for a week of shooting, drinking, etc. but find the cabin being looked after by a young caretaker named David. When David's status as a war deserter is revealed, all hell breaks loose.
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
I saw the long version of five hours plus on two DVD's, and was impressed by the acting, the sets, Geissendorfer's conscientious direction and Michael Ballhaus's elegant camera-work (the snow scenes especially). It was hard to write a script that would bring out all the elements of Mann's novel, but I think they succeeded for the most part. The torpor of life in a TB sanatorium was well captured--Castorp is never quite sure just how long he has spent at the facility--and the genial brutality and occasional incompetence of the staff too.
The actors impressed me, with one exception. Christian Eichhorn was young and ardent as Castorp, Flavio Bucci extravagant and impassioned as Settembrini (just as I imagined him from the novel), and Rod Steiger tore a couple of scenes to tatters in an enjoyable way in the third and final episode. Marie-France Pisier is hardly a "listless, worm-eaten Kirghiz-eyed" woman as Mann describes her, but is always striking and lovely to look at. Only Charles Aznavour, badly miscast as Naphta, fails to impress the viewer. What were they thinking of, casting the hapless hero of Truffaut's Shoot the Pianist as a callous totalitarian philosopher?
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