Abroad on a rest holiday, composer Gustav Aschenbach (Dick Bogarde) is to all the world reserved and civilized. But when he glimpses someone who inspires him to give way to a secret passion, it foreshadows his doom. Di... more »rector Luchino Visconti (Rocco and His Brothers, The Damned) transforms Thomas Mann's classic novel into "a masterwork of power and beauty" (William Wolf, Cue). Like Aschenbach, Visconti is an artist obsessed: his movies are awash in mood, period detail and seething emotions beneath placid surfaces. Earning its maker a Cannes Film Festival Special 25th Anniversary Prize, Death in Venice - with a soundtrack feast of Gustav Mahler music and a haunting Bogarde performance-is Visconti at his best.« less
Micheal E. Corbin | Chicago, IL United States | 10/24/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Luchino Visconti's film adaptation of Thomas Mann's novella is visually, if not philosophically, faithful to its source (Britten's opera offers a more faithful reading of the Apollonian/Dionysian struggles which consume the aging writer). It is certainly one of the most gorgeous films ever made.In the Visconti version, the emphasis is more on the physical aspects of the story. Never has Venice looked more beautiful and alluring, more decadent and effete. If you've read the novella, it's like having the descriptions on its pages come to life. Dirk Bogarde gives an outstanding performance as Gustav von Aschenbach. Although he has very little dialogue, he conveys the bitterness, aroused passion and finally, pitiful yearning of Aschenbach through facial expressions alone. Bjorn Andresen, the actor who plays Tadzio, the beautiful young boy who is the object of Aschenbach's desire, was perfectly cast. He too plays the part with facial expressions and gestures. The Tadzio character is pivotal to the story, so any actor in this role must be worthy of inspiring passion and desire. Visconti, with his incredible eye for beauty, knew exactly what was he doing. And changing Ashenbach from a writer to a composer based on Gustav Mahler, and then using Mahler's music, especially the Adagietto from the 5th Symphony, was another brilliant stroke. Although I'd read the Mann story before the film, Mahler's music and Death in Venice will always be inextricably linked in my mind. As will the haunting images which appear throughout the film, especially that last one of Ashenbach dying on the beach as Tadzio walks slowly into the water.This films begs for DVD presentation in widescreen format with its soundtrack digitally enhanced. It also deserves to be restored to original full length. It may be slow moving with little action, but its rewards are many."
Visconti's heart-breaking vision of unrequited love
Micheal E. Corbin | 04/27/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When I saw "Death In Venice" I was haunted by it's images for weeks. To this day, I cannot think upon this film without again experiencing some of the original feelings that it inspired. This is not, without question, an easy film to watch. The dialogue is sparse and the music is basically limited to Mahler's gorgeous Adagietto from Symphony No. 5. Notwithstanding, never has the marriage of music and film been more vital or more atmospheric. Mahler's haunting music was seemingly composed for this film and the effect is chilling. Dirk Bogarde is perfection as the bitter, vitriolic Gustav Aschenbach, a man so consumed with what he considers ideal beauty that he welcomes his own destruction for a moment in it's company. The young Bjorn Andresen is, too, equally captivating as the object of Aschenbach's obsession. Even though his role is essentially a non-speaking one, what he achieves within the lmiits of the role is extraordinary. The beautiful and elegant Silvana Mangano is on screen too infrequently for my taste, but her contribution is nonetheless wonderful. At times I found myself enveloped by this film, as if though I were a guest of the grand hotel quietly seated on a wicker chair watching these events unfold before me. Venice has never been more tangible on film than it is here. Do yourself a favor and watch this masterpiece of a film. One warning, though; "Death in Venice" is a devastating film and it takes it's toll on the viewer. Watch it in the company of loved-ones and on a beautiful, sunny day."
They got it.
Samuel Chell | Kenosha,, WI United States | 01/23/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I wasn't too hopeful when I screened this film for 15 students immediately after reading Mann's masterpiece. In fact, I considered going instead with Von Sternberg's/Emil Jannings' "The Blue Angel" as a comparable narrative and proven cinematic success. But Visconti crafts a hypnotic and compelling film while Bogarde turns in the performance of his life. The lush cinematography and rich Mahler score are no mere "window dressing" but the very heart of the narrative, making the Dionysian currents that lap the Venice shores as irresistible to the attentive viewer as to the character of Aschenbach himself. I've never felt quite the same about a screen character--at once a pitiful caricature, his make-up melting under the hot Venice sun, and a noble figure who chooses his destiny.
This isn't a film for everyone. But as the final Mahler note was being sounded, one spectator excitedly whispered to me, "They got it." That's good enough for me."
The most extraordinary film I have ever seen!
Samuel Chell | 06/08/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I first saw this film a few weeks ago when it was on TV and found it utterly brilliant! Its a thought provoking, visceral and moving tale of a composer (Bogarde) who has all but lost his ability to experience emotion and finds the beauty of a young boy disturbs him enough to re-waken his feelings. There can be no more than 30 conversations or exchanges of words in this tale of smouldering obsession and even less action or movement. Yet incredibly it keeps one riveted and fascinated all throughout its running time. Bogarde gives the performance of his life as his character and the plot develop partly through his increasing obsession of the boy and through the flashbacks of his life as a composer. Director, Visconti films in lavish beauty and style and sensibly intervenes as little as possible as the experience, (rather than plot) unfolds. Mahler's music fits the film perfectly and heightens the emotion throughout. Its a rare gem of a film, of which I have yet to see another like it, where virtually nothing happens, yet everything happens. Marvellous!"
Just wait a year
Nathaniel Hawthorne | Kane-tuck-eee | 01/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I won't give away plot or character... you can get this info from other reviewers. I will tell you something else.
I've seen this film once, a year ago. I hated it then. (Maybe my hetero-ness got in the way and I momentarily forgot that beauty is in the eye of the beholder... ) But from time to time images from the film crop into my head. They leave... eventually they come back. They always come back.
How many works of art can say THAT?
This is a haunting film, a tragic one. You will be touched... although maybe not right away. Give it a chance and it will be like one of those dreams you had twenty years ago and every now and then an image from that dream will pop into your head.
I've been to Venice. The city is like no other. And this film, perhaps, also, ... like no other."