34 user 26 critic

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.


Ken Russell


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




Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Powell ... Gustav Mahler
Georgina Hale ... Alma Mahler
Lee Montague ... Bernhard Mahler
Miriam Karlin ... Aunt Rosa
Rosalie Crutchley ... Marie Mahler
Gary Rich Gary Rich ... Young Mahler
Richard Morant ... Max
Angela Down Angela Down ... Justine Mahler
Antonia Ellis ... Cosima Wagner
Ronald Pickup ... Nick
Peter Eyre ... Otto Mahler
Dana Gillespie ... Anna von Mildenburg
George Coulouris ... Doctor Roth
David Collings ... Hugo Wolfe
Arnold Yarrow Arnold Yarrow ... Grandfather


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 Here, historical content matters not so much as metaphors, feelings, emotions, and interpretations, and pay close attention, as every word and frame is intended to be important.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


Biography | Drama | Music


PG | See all certifications »

Did You Know?


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


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 »


Gustav Mahler: [to Alma] You wanted fame. Well, it looks as if you'll have to settle for notoriety.
See more »


References The Music Lovers (1971) See more »


O Du Lieber Augustine
Traditional, also attributed to Marx Augustin
[Heard as a theme during the swimming scene]
See more »

User Reviews

Probably best in the DVD version
25 March 2004 | by enthusiastSee all my reviews

Definitely a good film about the composer; it portrays him better than "Bride of the Wind" did (that movie showed only the older Mahler as he was not the central feature). Alma is portrayed more realistically in this movie. Much has been made about the conversion to Christianity and though this segment of the film is quite controversial in the U.S. it should be noted that in the German speaking areas of Europe at that time Christianity was not nearly as benevolent towards people of the Jewish faith as it is in the U.S. (or Lithuania) today. Realize that Lithuania is a Catholic country and we lost our Jews in the Great Patriotic War due to the Germans coming through here so we know. Russell was trying to show that Mahler had to take a heck of a leap, psychologically, to go from being a Jew to becoming a Christian.

Enough of politics. This film has much more of his music than "Bride of the Wind" and that is certainly enjoyable. VHS does not give adequate quality of sound reproduction for the music so I highly recommend DVD with good stereo speakers for viewing this film. His work was incredible and he was definitely the greatest German composer after Beethoven. One item of note: Most of this film seems to take place at Mahler's summer residence- where he composed most of his music. Yet, during most of the year(s) he was in Vienna conducting. Was Mahler unfaithful to Alma in Vienna? Well, when you consider the conductor of any great philharmonic was then as popular to women as hard rock singers are now; Let's just say that he was probably not as unfaithful to Alma as he could have been.

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Release Date:

February 1975 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Малер See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (DVD)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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