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Death in Venice (1971)

Morte a Venezia (original title)
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While recovering in Venice, a sickly composer becomes dangerously fixated with a teenage boy.

Director:

Luchino Visconti

Writers:

Thomas Mann (novel), Luchino Visconti (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 18 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Dirk Bogarde ... Gustav von Aschenbach
Romolo Valli ... Hotel Manager
Mark Burns Mark Burns ... Alfred
Nora Ricci ... Tadzio's Governess
Marisa Berenson ... Frau von Aschenbach
Carole André ... Esmeralda - Brothel Prostitute
Björn Andrésen Björn Andrésen ... Tadzio (as Björn Andresen)
Silvana Mangano ... Tadzio's Mother
Leslie French Leslie French ... Travel Agent
Franco Fabrizi ... Barber
Antonio Appicella Antonio Appicella ... Vagrant
Sergio Garfagnoli Sergio Garfagnoli ... Jaschu - Polish Youth
Ciro Cristofoletti Ciro Cristofoletti ... Hotel Clerk
Luigi Battaglia Luigi Battaglia ... Scapegrace
Dominique Darel ... English Tourist
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Storyline

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 <eric_wees@ccmail.chin.doc.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The celebrated story of a man obsessed with ideal beauty.

Genres:

Drama

Certificate:

GP | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Italy | France | USA

Language:

English | Italian | Polish | French | Russian | German

Release Date:

5 March 1971 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Death in Venice See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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.

In Snakes and Ladders(1978) by Dirk Bogarde it is stated that originally the Producer, Luchino Visconti wanted Dirk to wear a false nose to make him look more like Mahler. This prove impossible to wear as it kept falling off and prevented him from making normal facial movements. It was then decided he should wear a moustache and prince-nez glasses so he ended up looking more like Thomas Mann than Gustav Mahler. See more »

Goofs

(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 »

Quotes

Alfred: In all the world, there is no impurity so impure as old age.
See more »

Connections

Spoofed in Mahler (1974) See more »

Soundtracks

Adagietto from Symphony No.5
Written by Gustav Mahler
Conducted by Franco Mannino
Performed by Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia (as The Orchestra of the Academy of Saint Cecilia)
Courtesy of Varèse Sarabande
See more »

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User Reviews

 
A haunting piece of cinema, a true emotional experience, a masterpiece
12 July 2004 | by auberusSee all my reviews

Luchino Visconti's 'Death in Venice' is one of the most misunderstood masterpieces of cinema. Based on Thomas Mann's 1913 classic novella of the same name, the film not only capture the quintessential of the novel but also reinforce a powerful questioning through superb visuals. Adapted by Mr. Visconti himself who decided to focus on the Venice chapter only as well as to modify the occupation of the main protagonist, Gustav von Aschenbach who becomes a music composer (highly inspired by the composer Mahler), the film was also inspired by other Thomas Mann's novel like 'Doctor Faustus' or by Marcel Proust's writing. Often reduced and presented as a decadent film in which homosexuality and pedophilia are the main themes, the novel like the movie deals in fact with a much more complex and powerful dynamic.

Indeed the film is based on an equation between Death and Beauty as an aphorism for Perfection and in which the results is Time (or the lack of it). Perfection, Beauty is a chimer, pursuing it is pursuing Death as Time is passing by. At first von Aschenbach does not understand why the perfection of the form in his musical composition does not lead to the perfection of his symphony and therefore lose himself in a quest for Beauty following the young Tadzio as not only a symbol for this ultimate Beauty / Perfection but also as the Mask of Death. In this Venice, marked by Death and cursed by the plague, the Time is running out and the fascinating quest for Perfection finally appears to be a dangerous game to play.

All the notions that build up to the main questioning are revealed during this quest for Perfection and this race against Death. The notion of Urgency reinforced by an avoidable sorrow as Von Aschenbach realizes he is getting old in the hair dresser scene. The notion of isolation right from the beginning emphases by the personality of Aschenbach himself and showed by Visconti as someone cold and rigid and therefore alone. The notion of Desire which leads to the understanding of the main questioning: for Aschenbach, Perfection is reached through hard work it is a consequence not a fact. The Young Tadzio blows away this certitude. Does von Aschenbach desire Tadzio or is he fascinated by what he represents: Perfect Beauty?

The challenge of Luchino Visconti was to apply a superb cinematography and a precise narrative method to a film that in nature deals with complex concepts. By succeeding in this task Mr. Visconti delivers a haunting piece of cinema, a true emotional experience, a masterpiece.


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