Death in Venice

 
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Product Description

Luchino Visconti's adaptation of the Thomas Mann novel is the very definition of sumptuous: the costumes and sets, the special geography of Venice, and the breathtaking cinematography combine to form a heady experience. At the center of this gorgeousness is Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde in a meticulous performance), a controlled intellectual who unexpectedly finds himself obsessed by the vision of a 14-year-old boy while on a convalescent vacation in 1911. Visconti has turned Aschenbach into a composer, which accounts for the lush excerpts from Mahler on the soundtrack (Bogarde is meant to look like Mahler, too). Even if it tends to hit the nail on the head a little too forcefully, and even if Visconti can test one's patience with lingering looks at crowds at the beach and hotel dining rooms, Death in Venice creates a lushness rare in movies. For some viewers, that will be enough. --Robert Horton

Customer Reviews:

  • Bogarde's Only Boring Performance
    I'm a lifelong Bogarde fan, the kind who will watch anything he's in. He's a marvelously sensitive, intuitive actor, his effects so natural they seem effortless. What's more, he's one of the few actors who, when he's silent on screen, looks as though he's thinking and not as though he forgot his lines. Therefore I was astonished at his bizarre, fidgety performance in *Death In Venice*. In his memoirs, Bogarde has described how Visconti tracked him down and convinced him to play the role. Visconti told Bogarde he had reached the exact degree of preparedness, like a hunting kill hung to the stage of beautiful putrefaction. Well, Bogarde putrifies in this role, but not beautifully. For most of the movie, he's continually full of business, idiosyncratic little quirks and tics that chafe the viewer.All of Bogarde's usual seamless power is lost in this overworked interpretation. Until the last scenes in the film his Aschenbach is too trivial, narcissistic, and dryly self-involved to gain our interest. I think part of the problem is the self-consciousness of his Mahler makeup. (Visconti intended him to look like Mahler.) At this stage in Bogarde's life he had a compelling ruined beauty. This is what his Aschenbach should have looked like.

    Having said all this, I have to mention the truly powerful last scenes in which Bogarde, as the dying Aschenbach, regains his stillness and a tragic self-knowledge. He sacrifices his life rather than be separated from an impossible, wildly unseemly love for a person who could never possibly love him back. This is not noble. It's pathetic, ridiculous, repulsive. But Bogarde rises above his Mahler moustache and disastrous obsession to pierce us, in the end, with his pain....more info
  • " Don't ever smile like that at anyone, except me "
    Thomas Mann's controversial novel is the basis for the film "A Death in Venice. " Although in the book, the hero is an author, in the film the director Luchino Visconti who also wrote the screenplay, transforms him into a Composer. As such, the Author/Composer, Gustav Von Aschebach (Dirk Bogarde) on the verge of mental exhaustion is a burned-out artisan. After a long and successful career now seeks the peace and tranquility of a less hectic life. He decides to go on vacation to Venice where he hopes to rejuvenate his dwindling ambition. However, while staying at the picturesque seaside resort, he captures the attention of a beautiful young teenage boy, Tadzio (Bj?rn Andr®¶sen) who eyes him with curious interest and is immediately smitten by him. Although Gustav is captivated by the wondrous youth, he nevertheless must find some private time away from the boy's governess (Nora Ricci), while having to cope with a invading plague which seems to have infested the city. The movie dialog, like the novel remains subtle as are the few brief encounters between the boy and the artist. In the end. the audience unlike the book is hampered with innuendos and imaginative flights of fancy. Their affair is never given opportunity and if not for the brief resolution in the book, the film allows only the possibility of 'what if.' Nevertheless, one can sympathize with the hero and wish him a moment's peace to obtain that which is forbidden, elusive but definitely criticized by prying eyes. Great story and a Bogarde Classic. **** ...more info
  • A Visual Poem
    Luchino Visconti`s Death In Venice (1971)

    Alvy Singer: "You're not going to come back to New York?"
    Annie Hall: "What's so great about New York? It's a dying city, you read Death in Venice."
    (Woody Allen's ANNIE HALL, 1979)



    Luchino Visconti's movie is not only a fine adaptation of Thomas Mann's celebrated novel, but it's one of those few films that succeeded in adding another dimension to the literature they stemmed from. Amongst those works I can cite Kubrick's 2001: Space Odyssey, Tarkovski's Solaris (though not necessarily one of the latter finest moments at all)... etc.

    The movie opens to a scene centering a sailing boat; the noticeable dark framing of this initial shot gives the feel of a fairy tale emerging out of time and place. More than six minutes will elapse while the gorgeous Mahler's fifth symphony is solely playing, not a single sound from the "real" world. The music is suddenly and loudly interrupted by a horn sound, then a complete contrast with pure mundane noises and distant voices, but still no discerned dialogs... not after ten minutes.

    Visconti smartly translated a novel from the written realm into an entity dominated by image and sound. The entire movie is remarkable for those types of scenes based on wordless elements.
    It's true that Visconti's scenes and shots are not as complexly designed as Antonioni's, neither as playful and unorthodox as Fellini's; but just from this opening scene you realize you're in the presence of a film maker with something to "say".

    The protagonist (Gustav von Aschenbach) is a music composer who just landed in Venice seeking a quiet and peaceful refuge. Instead, he found himself emerged in a tense and gloomy ambiance. Meanwhile, he gradually became obsessed with the stunning beauty of a young boy (Tadzio), the latter becoming more aware of this attention as the plot progresses.

    Visconti's success in creating a crescendo tense atmosphere is remarkable for his almost complete absence of any "action". We don't know why the strange odors are spreading in the streets of the city, or why strange chemical solutions are being spilled on the walls, the secretive police attitude... etc

    Nothing is actually happening on the screen, but -like Gustav- we're exposed to strange sceneries, murmurs, and tension.

    Death in Venice is about the disintegration of an artist, his self-destructive obsession to the limit of narcissism, a futile longing for unreachable beauty.

    The disturbing world around Gustav drives him back in memories to unsettled events from his near and distant past. But unlike Isaac Borg (from Bergman's Wild Strawberries) who was positively influenced by it, Gustav is succumbed into more darkness and isolation. Even when he ultimately knew why Venice is being disinfected, Gustav's dark path is already irreversible, and despite final desperate aesthetic measures sought in a beauty salon; his mind and his health are inevitably degrading.

    Thomas Mann himself was influenced by Freud and Nietzsche, he wrote his novel in a period he was interested in dreams and death. It's not very surprising why Visconti would show interest in this novel, he was always openly gay, even bisexual. His choice of Mahler (Mahler is not mentioned in the novel) is based of the latter's deep interest in death also. Tadzio's beauty may be -partially- an object to sexual attraction, but most importantly it is a metaphor to a Utopian beauty, an absolute beauty free of any societal or material interpretation; it's the same concept of beauty discussed by Gustav and a fellow friend over a whole scene, a part that didn't exist in Mann's novel, indicating Visconti's own unsettled struggle about it.

    Technically speaking, De Santis' camera is frequently mobile, spanning distantly at times and rarely with frank close-ups. Visconti smartly shifts between the past and the present; he uses very smooth transitions (used by Allen later in Another Woman): For example -in a scene that I really liked- Tadzio is amateurishly playing Beethoven's Fur Elise on the piano, Gustav walks in the background from the left of the screen attracted towards the source of the music, the camera zooms on Gustav and Tadzio is now completely out of the frame but we're clearly hearing his music, the camera zooms out revealing Gustav reaching a strange woman (instead of Tadzio) playing the same tune on a piano, a closer look shows a younger Gustav in a completely different milieu. This is how -and with a very clever subtle change in the vocal tone of both pianos- Visconti traveled in time.

    The movie shows a unique use of soundtrack music, only present when no dialog or any voice is present, like a shift to another world. Visconti used Mahler's works, his fifth symphony is the film "book cover" (start and end), with the music beautifully and simultaneously climaxing with the drama at the end.

    The ending shot certainly inspired Ozon's "Le Temps Qui Reste".
    Despite my usual attraction to more complex and experimental films, I liked Death in Venice. It's a horrible nightmare told in a visual and a musical poem of elegance and beauty. It's also a deep contemplation of youth, age, beauty, and death.

    Death in Venice won Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Sound Track during the 1972 BAFTA.

    The Warner Bros DVD (US format) provides a good-quality transfer, additional materials include a "behind-the-scenes featurette" and a still gallery. It would be nice if it had a commentary though.

    Director: Luchino Visconti
    Writer: Thomas Mann
    Original Music: Gustav Mahler
    Cinematography: Pasqualino De Santis
    Genre: Drama
    Year: 1971
    Length: 130 min.
    Language: Italian
    Country: Italy...more info
  • Technically exquisite, but tedious and pretentious.
    I found this movie to be beautifully photographed but very tedious, if not pretentious, if not downright *annoying.*

    Toward the end of the movie, there's a scene where a woman is singing what I believe is a Polish song. And she goes on and on and on and on and on and on.

    She gave me a freakin' headache!

    It's interesting that many of the reviewers here who gave the film 5 stars freely admit that it's

    ... "slow moving"

    ... "not an easy film to watch"

    ... "lacking in action."

    Yeah, right! So then why give it such high praise?

    It's not that a movie has to be "easy" to watch, but it does have to have enough form and substance that the audience cares, one way or another, pro or con, about the central character, especially when the central character is empathetically presented.

    I didn't care very much what happened to the Dirk Bogarde character. He was introspective but without the payoff an introspective character should have. "What's on this boy's mind?" I kept asking myself.

    Why should we care or empathize with the Dirk Bogarde/Gustav Mahler character? We know very little about him. Yes, Mahler was a great artist, but this isn't a great movie.

    The flashback scenes where Mahler is arguing with a colleague about the meaning of art and truth were, for me, forced and overbearing -- throw-ins.

    That the Mahler character wanted to stay in Venice just to be around the young boy he fancied -- sorry, but that isn't enough for me as far as a "plot" is concerned. Even great directors have trouble with plots and endings and in that regard this movie, as beautifully photgraphed and as evocative as it is, copped out. Put another way: sometimes less *isn't* more; sometimes less is just less.

    When you have a movie with human beings in it, then you need to have them doing things that human beings do. What they do can be absurd, illogical, antisocial -- but have them DO SOMETHING -- fer crissakes!

    There seemed to be very little going on inside or outside the Mahler character's mind. Why, for example was he fascinated by the young boy? The film suggests that perhaps he was drawn to the boy because he was obsessed with beauty; perhaps because he's a homosexual; perhaps because as a great artist he inevitably has feelings too large, too sensitive for the world of the mundane. Or a combination of all three possibilities. Ok, but where did the story go from those suggested possibilities? Those are threads, it seems to me, that are relatively "easy" to establish in a movie -- the real art comes in taking those threads and making something meaningful with them. And here's where Visconti's work, ambitious and as technical masterful as it is, falls short.

    The threads in great movies may not explain all there is to know or even all there is to contemplate in the human condition, but when the final scene is over, the audience should feel as though some insight has been offered -- insight beyond exquisite technical proficiency and/or outstanding "acting." How can an actor (Dirk Bogarde) give a great performance when his character lacks greatness within the context of the film. here I'm using the word "greatness" to mean a touchstone for an insight into the human condition. That just got by me in this movie.

    The only thing I really "cared about" was Dirk Bogarde's luggage!

    It's impossible to say that this was a bad movie or a failure, just a great disappointment and a bore.

    ...more info
  • Resubmitting review of "Death in Venice"
    I already submitted this review last week. What I recall stating was that this was a beautiful VHS copy, am glad to have it, but that neither Amazon nor the seller gave any information that this was dubbed rather than subtitled.
    So, as I stated before, this is a terrific product but more information would be much appreciated, especially with films where subtitles are preferred....more info
  • A great cinematic jewel now on DVD
    In this age of putrid mediocrity this film sparkles like the timeless true bijou masterpiece it is. Yes it is slow but that is one of its chief virtues . Watch it and savour every superb frame, every delicate nuance,the astonishing painstaking art direction ,the exquisite lighting of a Venice that no longer exists and especially the flawless and tragically visceral performance by Dirk Bogarde, a master actor who was the equal of De Niro,Hoffman and Pacino put together in terms of subtlety and spareness. His conviction in the role permeates every frame and squeezes the heart long after the film has finished. Silvana Mangano need do nothing but allow the camera to caress her to make us gasp and the boy who plays Tadzio is the most arresting vision of androgynous beauty imaginable. Visconti the master created a true masterpiece with this film.
    A rare experience and a very beautiful one....more info
  • Question on aspect ratio
    The original film was shot in 2.35:1 aspect ratio but the DVD information I have seen just says widescreen. This implies the DVD is 1.75:1. Can anyone confirm the actual aspect ratio of the DVD?...more info
  • How long Warners before the W/S DVD?
    Accepting that this thirty year old movie may not be to everyone's taste, I'd just like to add my voice to those who clamour for this movie to be available in restored form on DVD. Unless there are rights issues which are delaying release, where is it?

    Now that most of the back movie catalog is available on DVD, it is surely unforgiveable that this flawed masterpiece that relies so much for its effect on the beauty both of its wide screen cinematography and the Mahler music score should be withheld from reappraisal. So Warners, where is it? In the meantime five stars for the movie but three stars in 2003 for this grainy square screen VHS version....more info

  • Exquisite visual treat
    This movie is not for everyone. I took a friend to my second viewing of the film, and he shouted out midway thru the movie, "i know who dies in this movie...the audience!"
    Needless to say, it is not a fast paced movie. It is a beautiful treat for the eyes. And I had never liked Mahler until this movie, excellent choice of music.(Its funny how I used to hate my favorite music being put into movies, commercials ie. Carmina Burana, and Satie..Three Gymnopedies..and then a movie introduces me to a piece of music that I love.)
    I have seen this movie many times and it prompted me to read the book. Dirk Bogarde is fastidious it this role ....more info
  • Tod in Venedig + Dr. Faustus = Visconti's "Morte a Venezia"
    ...Nobody ... seems to realize that Visconti fused the main character of Mann's 1947 novel "Dr.Faustus" with the writer of his 1911 short story "Death in Venice".
    Mahler is just one of many possible characters having inspired Mann / Visconti: August von Platen, Nietzsche or Wagner should also be mentioned.
    Ok, this is my ...commentary I couldn't resist to place, maybe some viewers will see something more in this beautiful movie on decadence-culture than just the embarassing passion of a inhibited elder gentleman for an effeminate adolescent....more info
  • Death in Venice's slow death on VHS
    Just a quick note to add to the chorus of voices here: Death in Venice needs to be put on DVD - restored, widescreen, etc......more info
  • A Cinematic Masterpiece
    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....more info

  • "AUTOPSY.....
    There are so many levels to this movie today and there wil be so many future levels.

    BASICALLY, composer on vacation [?], No, recovering from a traumatic domestic incident involving great personal loss find a sort of a 'retribution' in this exerience. Something along those lines, simple, but so effectively presented by VISCONTI [Master of the lonely soul], and portrayed with utter simplicity by erstwhile heart-throb Dirk Bogarde. It is a slow journey, moving with detailed precision to it's inevitable conclusion. Mr. Bogarde, a fine actor in the later years, stunned audiences with this raw performance and continued to stride from project to project, leaving us with a unique movie legacy.

    Brilliant fusion of image and sound thanks to the genius of Gustav Mahler - possibly a phantom inspiration of the novella.

    [Mildly parodied by Russell in "Mahler" this fine work deserves full widescreen DVD restoration as does all of Luchino Visconti's fine works.]...more info

  • An artist's search for beauty
    I saw this movie in a theater when it was released. One could hear laughter and boos from the audience. They thought the movie was boring as it had no plot and the main character was pathetic in his pursuit of a 12-year-old boy. Obviously, they could not see beyond the superficial. Actually, it is a very deep and moving metaphor about an artist (director Visconti himself?) who has been looking for beauty in an ugly world (note the plague all around him) all his life. He finally finds beauty (the boy) just before his death and can die satisfied. There is a hint in the last scene that the whole movie is an autobiographical metaphor: a lone movie camera on a tripod stands near the dying man on the beach....more info
  • Ending life with dignity
    Death in Venice is my second favorite movie just because it is so perfectly done. The whole movie can be seen as a cohesive work without flaws. The image of youth and old age is astoundingly beautiful. The great cinematography is translucent yet perfect. Dirk Bogard played his part with the sensitivity which his role demanded. This whole movie has a power which overwhelms you and leaves you stunned at the end. The final image of the boy standing in the sunset is as if Michelangelo had cut him out of stone. A perfect, poetic movie made for those who appreciate the finest cinema has to offer. When I first saw this movie in 1971 I had my ex-wife with me. At he end of the movie she was absolutely awestruck and unable to move for a few minutes. I had to coax her out of her seat to come with me. This is a powerful movie....more info
  • A TALE OF SOUL'S MIGRATION
    Contrary to cursory readings and summaries, I still maintain this is not simply a story about homosexual love, per se, or, more clearly, it's not about pursuing sex, nor simply a yarn about an older man pining for a young male. I'm just as startled to see that one reviewer actually read it as a fable of pederasty! I have never seen it EITHER way, but if it was a homosexual tale, that would be fine, too. It is, however, not to be confused with any 'gay' cinema of the last ten or twenty years. (The youth 'Tadzio' could just as easily be a young girl, but then I guess the same people would read this as a tale about a dirty old straight man. Who can tell!? Visconti tried to make the boy as androgynous as he could to shed light on matters, but his gesture still seems lost).

    I think Visconti is trying to hit a different note, and he suceeds for those who are at a stage in life to see it. Yes, Visconti was homosexual, AND he made this film late in life, so I believe his concerns were not lodged in his loins, but in his heart and mind. The text here is very Jungian, not Freudian.

    This is a sweet and ethereal film about aging, and the bittersweet longing for one's youth, and the gradual, transcendent awakening one experiences when one encounters one's 'self' reflected in a younger image, and the myriad emotions as one first covets the younger as a separate entity, then eases into a bigger, more spiritual realization that the younger image IS oneself picking up the beat where he is leaving off.

    And, no, we're not talking 'Lolita'. This is not a story of lust and passions. It's, moreover, about the day when cholera comes to shake off the soul's old cage as one bids Welcome to a new generation.

    Nothing elucidates this clearer than the final image when Tadzio points ther protagonist towards the Great Beyond at the edge of the Venetian Lagoon.

    Cinematically, this is probably one of Visconti's more restrained efforts, but few moments in cinema can rival the opening images of Venice emerging from the fog in the early morning as Mahler's music plays over.

    It's slow-going for younger audiences raised on MTV, but the more thoughtful types will find it a worthwhile tour of dear old Venice, and the human soul in transition from life, to death, to life again.

    It's not quite the Thomas Mann story from which it was adapted, but it's pretty darned great....more info

  • Not Even Mahler Can Save This Film
    Luchino Visconti is one of my favorite directors of all time! I usually love to watch his movies. Films like "The Innocent", "Ludwig", "Senso" and "Conversation Piece" I think they are all great movies. Each one of them is very enjoyable to watch. So I want everyone to keep this in mind. It's not that I hate "Death In Venice", it does have it's good points. There are many things that standout about this movie, that I will never forget, and I mean that in the best way possible. Visconti's directing is as usual wonderful. I think from everything I've seen by him, this might be his best movie as a director. We can picture him directing this movie. The acting by Dirk Bogarde is very good too. I also enjoyed him in Visconti's "The Damned". The locations are wonderful. There are some real beautiful scenes here. I think the music by Mahler is very pleasant to listen to. I especially love the opening credits. I think it's one of the best I've ever seen ( no joke!). But even though I can say these positive things about the movie, it does have it's own faults as well. I've never read the novel from which this is based on, nor do I intend to ever read it. But, the character played by Bogarde remained, to me at least, such a mystery. There were times I didn't understand his character. And, I couldn't quite get his fascination with the young boy. Was this suppose to be a homosexual love story? He clearly found the boy appealing. That's in the tagline for the movie. " A man obsessed by ideal beauty". The boy represents "ideal beauty", but why? I know that may seem like a dumb question to some, but, I never quite got it. Why did HE have to represent it? And if you read the back of the cover it states "he abandons himself to a secret passion." Besides all of this, I didn't feel we got to know Bogarde's character very well. It's been some time since I watched the movie, but I don't remember hearing him ever talk about his family. I do remember a scene where he kisses a picture either of his wife or child. I didn't warm up to the character enough where I felt I went along with him. I never opened up to him. Now, was it like this in the book as well, or did this happen in the screenplay? I don't know. I have some respect for this movie, because of my admiration for Visconti, but this is a movie I usually never watch. ** 1\2 out of *****...more info
  • Hauntingly beautiful in the truest sense....
    I saw this movie when it first appeared in theatres in 1971, and I haven't seen it since, but it was the event that changed my life then. I'll never forget wandering in the movie theatre and seeing it. It haunted me for months; perhaps years. Masterfully played by the actor and a chilling ending and my recent visit to Venice brought it all together.I have yet to see a film like it since. A masterpiece. Period....more info
  • Moving, heartwrenching and yet tormenting
    There is nothing one can say regarding this masterpiece which would even begin to give this work the justice it deserves. The world must watch this....more info
  • incredible and unbelievable
    There is no need for me to exult to this movie, it is deservingly world famous. I do agree with one of the reviewes here that Mann's novella makes a different impression, although I would still hesitate to say that it's a swallower work of art. What I wanted to share is the feeling of before and after - if you see Venice first and then see the movie, and then come back to the city again, you will see it differenty. I do think that it's one of the most profoundly influential movies, and for everyone who liked it and appreciated the music there, Ludwig by Visconti is a must, too. Just to conclude, I did find it puzzling to find Death in Venice in the gay section in a video store; I think the movie is about the appreciation of beauty that goes beyond society-imposed limits and the individual's fright and astonishment when the power of beauty hits him. Enjoy this masterpiece!...more info
  • A Visual Poem
    Luchino Visconti`s Death In Venice (1971)

    Alvy Singer: "You're not going to come back to New York?"
    Annie Hall: "What's so great about New York? It's a dying city, you read Death in Venice."
    (Woody Allen's ANNIE HALL, 1979)



    Luchino Visconti's movie is not only a fine adaptation of Thomas Mann's celebrated novel, but it's one of those few films that succeeded in adding another dimension to the literature they stemmed from. Amongst those works I can cite Kubrick's 2001: Space Odyssey, Tarkovski's Solaris (though not necessarily one of the latter finest moments at all)... etc.

    The movie opens to a scene centering a sailing boat; the noticeable dark framing of this initial shot gives the feel of a fairy tale emerging out of time and place. More than six minutes will elapse while the gorgeous Mahler's fifth symphony is solely playing, not a single sound from the "real" world. The music is suddenly and loudly interrupted by a horn sound, then a complete contrast with pure mundane noises and distant voices, but still no discerned dialogs... not after ten minutes.

    Visconti smartly translated a novel from the written realm into an entity dominated by image and sound. The entire movie is remarkable for those types of scenes based on wordless elements.
    It's true that Visconti's scenes and shots are not as complexly designed as Antonioni's, neither as playful and unorthodox as Fellini's; but just from this opening scene you realize you're in the presence of a film maker with something to "say".

    The protagonist (Gustav von Aschenbach) is a music composer who just landed in Venice seeking a quiet and peaceful refuge. Instead, he found himself emerged in a tense and gloomy ambiance. Meanwhile, he gradually became obsessed with the stunning beauty of a young boy (Tadzio), the latter becoming more aware of this attention as the plot progresses.

    Visconti's success in creating a crescendo tense atmosphere is remarkable for his almost complete absence of any "action". We don't know why the strange odors are spreading in the streets of the city, or why strange chemical solutions are being spilled on the walls, the secretive police attitude... etc

    Nothing is actually happening on the screen, but -like Gustav- we're exposed to strange sceneries, murmurs, and tension.

    Death in Venice is about the disintegration of an artist, his self-destructive obsession to the limit of narcissism, a futile longing for unreachable beauty.

    The disturbing world around Gustav drives him back in memories to unsettled events from his near and distant past. But unlike Isaac Borg (from Bergman's Wild Strawberries) who was positively influenced by it, Gustav is succumbed into more darkness and isolation. Even when he ultimately knew why Venice is being disinfected, Gustav's dark path is already irreversible, and despite final desperate aesthetic measures sought in a beauty salon; his mind and his health are inevitably degrading.

    Thomas Mann himself was influenced by Freud and Nietzsche, he wrote his novel in a period he was interested in dreams and death. It's not very surprising why Visconti would show interest in this novel, he was always openly gay, even bisexual. His choice of Mahler (Mahler is not mentioned in the novel) is based of the latter's deep interest in death also. Tadzio's beauty may be -partially- an object to sexual attraction, but most importantly it is a metaphor to a Utopian beauty, an absolute beauty free of any societal or material interpretation; it's the same concept of beauty discussed by Gustav and a fellow friend over a whole scene, a part that didn't exist in Mann's novel, indicating Visconti's own unsettled struggle about it.

    Technically speaking, De Santis' camera is frequently mobile, spanning distantly at times and rarely with frank close-ups. Visconti smartly shifts between the past and the present; he uses very smooth transitions (used by Allen later in Another Woman): For example -in a scene that I really liked- Tadzio is amateurishly playing Beethoven's Fur Elise on the piano, Gustav walks in the background from the left of the screen attracted towards the source of the music, the camera zooms on Gustav and Tadzio is now completely out of the frame but we're clearly hearing his music, the camera zooms out revealing Gustav reaching a strange woman (instead of Tadzio) playing the same tune on a piano, a closer look shows a younger Gustav in a completely different milieu. This is how -and with a very clever subtle change in the vocal tone of both pianos- Visconti traveled in time.

    The movie shows a unique use of soundtrack music, only present when no dialog or any voice is present, like a shift to another world. Visconti used Mahler's works, his fifth symphony is the film "book cover" (start and end), with the music beautifully and simultaneously climaxing with the drama at the end.

    The ending shot certainly inspired Ozon's "Le Temps Qui Reste".
    Despite my usual attraction to more complex and experimental films, I liked Death in Venice. It's a horrible nightmare told in a visual and a musical poem of elegance and beauty. It's also a deep contemplation of youth, age, beauty, and death.

    Death in Venice won Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, and Best Sound Track during the 1972 BAFTA.

    The Warner Bros DVD (US format) provides a good-quality transfer, additional materials include a "behind-the-scenes featurette" and a still gallery. It would be nice if it had a commentary though.

    Director: Luchino Visconti
    Writer: Thomas Mann
    Original Music: Gustav Mahler
    Cinematography: Pasqualino De Santis
    Genre: Drama
    Year: 1971
    Length: 130 min.
    Language: Italian
    Country: Italy...more info
  • Technically exquisite, but tedious and pretentious.
    I found this movie to be beautifully photographed but very tedious, if not pretentious, if not downright *annoying.*

    Toward the end of the movie, there's a scene where a woman is singing what I believe is a Polish song. And she goes on and on and on and on and on and on.

    She gave me a freakin' headache!

    It's interesting that many of the reviewers here who gave the film 5 stars freely admit that it's

    ... "slow moving"

    ... "not an easy film to watch"

    ... "lacking in action."

    Yeah, right! So then why give it such high praise?

    It's not that a movie has to be "easy" to watch, but it does have to have enough form and substance that the audience cares, one way or another, pro or con, about the central character, especially when the central character is empathetically presented.

    I didn't care very much what happened to the Dirk Bogarde character. He was introspective but without the payoff an introspective character should have. "What's on this boy's mind?" I kept asking myself.

    Why should we care or empathize with the Dirk Bogarde/Gustav Mahler character? We know very little about him. Yes, Mahler was a great artist, but this isn't a great movie.

    The flashback scenes where Mahler is arguing with a colleague about the meaning of art and truth were, for me, forced and overbearing -- throw-ins.

    That the Mahler character wanted to stay in Venice just to be around the young boy he fancied -- sorry, but that isn't enough for me as far as a "plot" is concerned. Even great directors have trouble with plots and endings and in that regard this movie, as beautifully photgraphed and as evocative as it is, copped out. Put another way: sometimes less *isn't* more; sometimes less is just less.

    When you have a movie with human beings in it, then you need to have them doing things that human beings do. What they do can be absurd, illogical, antisocial -- but have them DO SOMETHING -- fer crissakes!

    There seemed to be very little going on inside or outside the Mahler character's mind. Why, for example was he fascinated by the young boy? The film suggests that perhaps he was drawn to the boy because he was obsessed with beauty; perhaps because he's a homosexual; perhaps because as a great artist he inevitably has feelings too large, too sensitive for the world of the mundane. Or a combination of all three possibilities. Ok, but where did the story go from those suggested possibilities? Those are threads, it seems to me, that are relatively "easy" to establish in a movie -- the real art comes in taking those threads and making something meaningful with them. And here's where Visconti's work, ambitious and as technical masterful as it is, falls short.

    The threads in great movies may not explain all there is to know or even all there is to contemplate in the human condition, but when the final scene is over, the audience should feel as though some insight has been offered -- insight beyond exquisite technical proficiency and/or outstanding "acting." How can an actor (Dirk Bogarde) give a great performance when his character lacks greatness within the context of the film. here I'm using the word "greatness" to mean a touchstone for an insight into the human condition. That just got by me in this movie.

    The only thing I really "cared about" was Dirk Bogarde's luggage!

    It's impossible to say that this was a bad movie or a failure, just a great disappointment and a bore.

    ...more info
  • Resubmitting review of "Death in Venice"
    I already submitted this review last week. What I recall stating was that this was a beautiful VHS copy, am glad to have it, but that neither Amazon nor the seller gave any information that this was dubbed rather than subtitled.
    So, as I stated before, this is a terrific product but more information would be much appreciated, especially with films where subtitles are preferred....more info
  • Film only for those gifted from Muses and Graces
    It is hard to believe that some fellow from Illinois or the Midwest in general may enjoy this Gift from Venus. So, please, go and rent some other piece of junk at Blockbuster, you all farm-minded ignorants.
    I'll signore Pecorelli...more info
  • The sound of silence
    The casting, acting, and visual surroundings are superb. One scene in particular stays with me: Aschenbach has seated himself so that he can compose music while looking at the boy (and we hear the Mahler he is composing, and the human singing comes in).

    What I don't understand is Aschenbach's interior silence. The story (Thomas Mann's) is told by a narrator, but Thomas Mann hardly ever created a principle character who wasn't full of recordable thoughts and feelings, and Aschenbach is not that exception. Aschenbach quotes (and misquotes!) authors in his head, has recorded thoughts, scraps of thoughts, feelings, scraps of feelings, which grow ever more intense, continually. I can only assume that Visconti, working in a visual medium, wanted to substitute Bogarde's face for what we read on the page. Although this is sometimes successful, it also accounts for the few negative reviews this film got--mostly due to not enough going on. Bogarde's face is wonderful, but Thomas Mann is a little more wonderful.

    But STILL...5 stars.

    ***

    "Mr. Bogarde, you have your rings mixed up."
    (wriggling his fingers) "No, I don't."
    "A wedding band goes on the fourth finger of your left hand, not right."
    "Not if you're a German in 1911, it doesn't."
    " Is that a fact? Well, nobody else wears one there. So switch it."
    (Bogarde switches the wedding band to the fourth finger of his left hand)
    "...and with your own ring--the signet--you always wear that one, don't you?"
    "Unless the director doesn't want me to, yes."
    "Put that one on the little finger of your right hand--it's too much with the wedding ring on the left hand."
    (Bogarde moves his own ring to his right hand) "I'll be darned. It still fits there."
    "Let's see."
    (Bogarde holds his hands out). "Yes, that's fine. This director does not object."

    ***

    The three (or four--depending if you want to separate the prositute's name from her appearance and behavior, in a real or imagined flashback [probably real])references, or borrowings, from Doctor Faustus make me a little dizzy. "Death in Venice" was written in 1911-12, and Doctor Faustus in 1943-47, and none of the the borrowings are--of course--in the original "Death in Venice," as are almost all other scenes, and the few words that are spoken.

    I've never been sure why the Mahler music, in another added flashback scene, is offensive to the audience. ( The whistling in an audience in Germany means---I hate it.) Strauss's "Salome," much more daring, was a smashing success in 1905 (and 6). Nor can I make much of Aschenbach's friend's castigation after the hall has cleared and they are back in Aschenbach's room. Or is the music Aschenbach composes supposed to be different from what we hear on the sound track? Don't think so.

    But still...five stars.
    ...more info
  • Parting glances
    Depending on whom you ask, Visconti's "Death in Venice" is either the most monumentally boring and pretentious film ever made or a wonderfully poetic and profound reflection on life, death, and what it takes to be a great artist. While I agree that gazing for hours into Andresen's ever-sleepy eyes can be a bit yawn-inducing at some points, in general I am in the latter camp. If beauty is its own justification (and consequently does not need words), then this work may perhaps be seen as the almost perfect embodiment of that idea in filmic form -- a movie with relatively little dialogue of any importance to the plot that completely relies on its photography and the Mahler symphonies as a score to convey whatever it has to say. And surprisingly, this movie actually feels less boring each time you watch it, so those who think it to be tedious have not seen it once too many but not often enough.

    The novella on which this is based is well-known, but Visconti does not exactly make it easier for his viewers by doing away with the amusing little asides Mann gives us about von Aschenbach: "a man who had learned to administrate his fame", for instance. There are some flashbacks and Bogarde does his best to fill in missing details about his character by subtle facial expressions and body language, but it still helps enormously to have read the novella. Otherwise, even though the story seems simple enough at first glance, it might be a bit confusing at times. And that does not even cover all the little things Visconti throws in in top of what is in the novella, for example what is it about the photographer at the beach with his monstrous camera, which is featured so prominently in the scene at the end when Tadzio walks out into the sea? Also notice that the steamer that brings von Aschenbach to Venice is called 'Esmeralda', like the young prostitute we se him visiting in Germany in one of the flashbacks. Several viewings are required to fully catch each of these little details.

    The movie relishes in contrasting the external and obvious with the internal and hidden. Just like the cholera epidemic that strikes Venice, von Aschenbach's emotional turmoils take place behind a stoic facade that only gets cracks during the finale of the film. Or study the gestures and facial expressions of the hotel director (the same actor who played the family priest in "The Leopard") when von Aschenbach is not looking at him. Ambiguity is really the keyword here.

    Perhaps this is also the only film from the 1970s where the constant use of the zoom lens actually makes sense from a storytelling standpoint, because it allows us to go without cuts from the external (the hotel, the beach, people chatting, etc.) to the internal, to drill into von Aschenbach's eyes and soul and explore the unspoken thing that goes on between him and Tadzio.

    The gist of the film seems to be that von Aschenbach realizes that his German friend Alfred is actually right -- to be a really great artist you have to open yourself fully to the subject of your art. But unfortunately, as soon as he accomplishes that, he also falls prey to his self-destructive, obsessive tendencies, which were probably the reason why he always tried to control himself as much as possible in the first place. His death is also ambiguous -- while he may simply have succumbed to cholera (external cause), he might also have died of an artist's broken heart (internal cause) -- the realization that he may never be able to create the perfectly beautiful work of art he desires, as symbolized in the movie by Tadzio.

    The brilliant Criterion edition of "The Leopard" makes you wish that all Visconti films had been shot in Technirama and that they were all available from Criterion. But of course that is not the case. This one is in Panavision and when you compare it to "The Leopard", you do see the picture is a bit fuzzier and more grainy here, either due to the smaller negative or because WB did not do such a good job with the transfer. (If your DVD player has any post-processing options for improving image clarity it might be a good idea to turn them on for this disc.) Unfortunately, Visconti's zoom lens not only adds even more softness to the image but also some noticeable chromatic aberration (i.e., those colorful fringes around bright objects), particularly in the outdoor scenes. But in general the quality of the visuals is quite acceptable.

    But maybe this film should never have been shot anamorphic in the first place. "The Leopard" was all about wide shots of sprawling landscapes and huge palace rooms, while "Death in Venice" mostly deals with closeups of faces. I have always felt that these more intimate movies actually work better in 4:3 than an anamorphic format, as it lets the audience concentrate more on the actors's facial expressions. (That is also why I have my reservations about people using 16:9 in their home movies to make them look more "professional".) As it is, I will make the heretic-sounding recommendation to use the zoom function of the DVD player to fill the 16:9 screen. You may find that the movie actually benefits from the tighter framing and that von Aschenbach's desperation in the end feels even more palpable than in 2.39:1. And you will discover the composition is still perfect in the cropped version -- Visconti knew better than to put important people or objects at the edges of his Panavision frame.

    The extras on the disc are not exactly mind-blowing, although there is a ten-minute featurette with Visconti on the set of the movie, which is quite interesting, since Visconti generally did not talk about his work very much. So it is fascinating to at least get a glimpse of his approach to filmmaking. The English subtitles are also worth reading, as they translate a lot of all the French, Italian, Polish, and muffled English dialogue. Not that it is important for the plot, but enlightening nonetheless.

    I also don't understand why WB still uses those flimsy cardboard/plastic cases for their DVDs. Perhaps they should realize that those cases not only look cheap but are also extremely inconvenient (especially when you try to peel off those plastic labels on the front and the cardboard underneath sticks to them and tears off!). A move to the cases everybody else is using would be much appreciated. But this is still an excellent movie, no matter what type of case it may come in. One of the masterpieces of a director who might only have Kubrick as a near-equal....more info
  • Unsurpassed Beauty
    I have owned a Video of Death in Venice for many years. The opportunity to upgrade to a DVD could not be missed. Although the film quality could have done with some enhancement, never the less, it retains all that Visconti intended. Bogarde's performance is captivating as is that of the boy playing Tazio but what really makes the film is its attention to detail in both costumes and settings. Everything is beautifully gauged from the beginning to the final pathetically sad scenes. There can be no better memorial to Bogarde, Visconti or Venice....more info
  • Death in Venice
    Luchino's resplendent adaptation of Thomas Mann's novella is a sumptuous feast for the eyes, with its meticulous period detail, lavish costumes, and decorative sets. Yet the themes of death and decay are ever-present, manifested in a mysterious plague sweeping the ancient city that hotel staff attempt to hush up. Bogarde was never better playing the obsessive, uptight Aschenbach, closely modeled after Gustav Mahler, whose lilting music suffuses every frame. A heady meditation on art and passion, "Death in Venice" is a trip well worth taking....more info
  • Death In Venice
    A very unique movie -- Dirk Bogarde was an extraordinary actor. Visconti was a very unusual director -- the movie was visually magnificent, but I did find the pace a little too slow even though I know that was the idea. It's an amazing story. Silvana Mangano was so beautiful and a wonderful actress.

    ...more info
  • Beautiful, but boring
    This is a beautifully shot yet slowing-moving movie based on the much better Thomas Mann novella. The best part of the film is the cinematography and settings in Venice. The actors are fine--despite occasional overwrought yelling and screaming--but aren't given much to do. The plot concerns a composer who falls in love with the adolescent Tadzio, who looks like a cross between a Greek god and David Bowie in his Ziggy Stardust years. The film's major fault is its extreme slow pace. The camera moves about lazily and long stretches pass when no one speaks. From time to time, we are given flashbacks of Aushenbach's life in Germany, but they are mere flickers of memory and not fleshed out at all. What we see mostly are shots of Aushenbach walking around Venice in a feverish daze. Again and again we see him look longingly at Tadzio, and we can, to some extent, feel his pain: for, despite the obvious homoerotic context, his is the universal problem of unrequited love. That Aushenbach never even speaks with Tadzio is all part of the tragedy. Still, the director doesn't give the film any energy in the way others have when confronted with similar material (i.e., Kubrick's or Lynne's Lolita adaptations). Death in Venice is like a gorgeous oil painting visually, but when it comes to its drama, it is disappointing....more info
  • DESIRE!!
    Like other Visconti films - this one is a visual treasure. It proves that Visconti is capable of adapting pretty much anything and making it his own.
    Central to the film is Dirk Bogarde's performance - which is really stirring and unforgettable. We identify with his character because we all feel what he feels at times - desire, failure, reflection.
    I am touched most of all by the scenes on the beach which also combine use of sound (like the man selling strawberries) in a hauntingly beautiful way....more info
  • not five, ten stars!
    If there is available to rate on 10 stars, I would give it! This is an excellent DVD...

    As you know, in that film, the musics By Gustav Mahler, his Adagietto movement from 5th Symphony. And there is a metaphor between Gustav Mahler and Gustav vo Aschenbach, who the main character of the film. Their name are same, so the director Visconti was compare Aschenbach to Mahler. And Aschenbech is a composer in that film. Actually, their lifes are very different.
    Still, in Thomas Mann's original novella, Aschenbach is a writer.

    This is a masterpiece and the most touching, impressive film I've ever watch. Even so, I weeped in the finale scene... what an uncanny love! what a feeling...

    It is a masterpiece and highly recommended.
    ...more info
  • MASTERPIECE!
    Luchino Visconti's 1971 film adaptation of Thomas Mann's novel "Death in Venice" is nothing short of a masterpiece in every sense of the word. The more I watch this film, the more I realize how perfect it is.

    For those unfamiliar with Thomas Mann's 1911 novel of the same name, there are a few differences. No movie that I'm aware of follows its original book to a "T". But the changes that Italian director Visconti adds to the story are intriguing and beautiful. I don't mind his personal touches in the slightest. Indeed, the film wouldn't be nearly as good otherwise.

    The intuition to make the Aschenbach character really be Jewish/Austrian famed composer Gustav Mahler and set the movie's soundtrack to that of Mahler's 3rd and 5th symphonies was brilliant. I can't say if Thomas Mann originally intended the Aschenbach character to truly be Mahler in the novel or not?

    Having the main character be a tired, worn out Gustav Mahler is a brilliant masterstroke of pure genius. We're left with a film that condenses everything brilliant that is Europe. Using Mahler's own music creates a depth and haunting realism to the film as well.

    The casting in this film is extraordinary! You could not have casted a better cast to play these characters anywhere. The young man who plays the beautiful Tadzio looks like a Norweignean version of a sculpted Apollo youth. His features are those of a god. His silouette against the backdrop of the sparkling sea pointing out over the waters is one the most erotically charged scenes I've ever seen in a movie. It's breathtaking really, and one almost forgets the possibly taboo homoerotic connotations such a scenario is from the standpoint of the aged Aschenbach.

    I have seen many films shot in and around Venice, Italy ("the Italian Job" most recently), but none have come as close to this as personifying the city and showing it as beautifully. In my opinion, Visconti's "Death in Venice" is to Venice what Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" is to Rome.

    Foreign film lovers should not miss this classic. Travelers who've been to Italy, or dream of visiting one day, also should not miss this beautiful film. I may not recommend the film to younger audiences who probably aren't ready to understand why a dying man would entertain fantasies of a physical passion for a teen boy. In such cases, I would say the film is probably unsuitable for viewers under the ages of 15 or so.

    The DVD has a nice picture in 16x9 widescreen for widescreen televisions and is compressed lightly with low grain and nice blacks and contrast. The sound is stereo and in the English language, so subtitles aren't necessary. The film is also shot in glorious color in a vivid but controlled manner. When I first saw this film I was sorry that it wasn't filmed in black & white, but now that I think on it, this story works better in color and the colors of this film are gorgeous. Venice always photographs well, but I have rarely seen the old city look so sumptuous as it does here. Some grade-A, top-notch cinematography went into the making of this rich and luxurious movie....more info

  • Obsession in the Time of Cholera
    Based on Thomas Mann's famous novella, Luchino Visconti's DEATH IN VENICE is the account of a middle-aged man and his obsession with a teenage boy. Gustav Aschenbach, a German composer, (Dirk Bogarde) on holiday in Venice in 1911, sees the young Tadzio and his Polish family at the hotel where they are staying and becomes sexually obsessed with him. Visconti has the difficult task of keeping the viewer interested in this sometimes slow-moving film since there is very little dialogue here. (The man and boy never speak.) What Aschenbach is thinking must be shown by facial expressions and body language. Both director and actor, however, are superb in conveying what is going on inside Aschenbach's head.

    DEATH IN VENICE is a beauty to behold. The opening scenes of the city are lush and beautiful; however, as the film progresses and Aschenbach begins his frenetic attempts to find out why many of the visitors are leaving Venice-- the city fathers are afraid they will lose the tourist lira if they are aware of a cholera outbreak-- the scenery takes on a sinister, deathly quality as the city becomes deserted. Visconti leaves no stone unturned in his attention to detail to create the mood and time period of this movie. Gustav Mahler's music (Bogarde looks a little like the composer) adds the final touch on this nearly flawless production.

    Visconti is a master director....more info

  • Thank you for the DVD
    This had been one of my favorite movies when I had seen it years ago in the theatre, but I was only able to get a VHS tape 6 months ago. Unfortunately it was a full screen version and while the movie was recognizeable, it lacked the impact that I remembered from the theatre.

    This dvd makes all the difference. The sets and camera work are largely what make this movie work and the pan and scan used with the tape just about destroyed it. Now with the DVD, I can see that virtually every shot, set-up I think it is called in the business, is a work of art of composition and color. This is a film from Italy, a nation with a preeminent tradition in the visual arts and Death In Venice shows this visual sense to perfection. I have never seen another movie as artistically shot as this.

    The plot and story line are very much underplayed and frankly many people I know don't get this film. The story developes, more than is told as in a conventional film. Rather than watching it, you live this movie. You watch it in delight at the what you are seeing and experiencing of being in Venice at the turn of the century. The story just sort of unfolds around around this visual experience, rather like real life.

    While the picture quality of the DVD is very much better than the VHS tape, the sound is only somewhat better. Nevertheless there is less wow and flutter than in the tape or than I remember from the theatre. Unfortunately the movie predates the general adoption of stereo sound, let alone Dolby surround. Given the extensive use of music, especially Mahler's 5'th symphony, one can only dream as to what this movie would be like with modern sound....more info

  • Beware: English spoken
    This is Luchino Visconti at the peak of his power as a reggiseur. This film is like a beautiful simphony, with a superb cinematography. No doubt, a film for the eyes pleasure. Dirk Bogard plays the part of his career and Silvana Mangano is exquisit as Central Europe countess (Visconti's mother look a like). The adagietto, the discussion about art and beauty, the decadence of an entire way of living... this is certainly one of the most important works from an unique artist of the second half of the XX century. Sadly, it is an enormous mistake that this long waited DVD edition was not released in it's original Italian language. Cinema lovers should wait for the european release....more info
  • A rare gem, this is cinema as Art
    Thomas Mann's novella "Death in Venice" is rightly considered one of the greatest books of European literature and this screen adaptation by the Italian maestro is brilliant and also completely faithful to the book unlike most movies based on literature. Every scene in the novella is to be found in the movie and it is a film of stunning visual beauty; this is entirely deliberate as the short story itself is a jewel which deals with the twin subjects of Art and Beauty and the Artist's relationship between the two. The plot follows a famous German composer (this is the only departure from the book--in the novella he was a German writer but Mann's character was based on Mahler anyway so the departure is totally understandable) whose staunchly held views on dignity, self-denial and an austere self-restraint are challenged when he encounters his ideal archetype of Beauty whilst on a holiday in Venice: a pubescent 14 year old Polish boy of aristocratic lineage. Totally smitten the old composer becomes totally obsessed with his Ideal and this leads to tragic consequences. The movie is famous also for the brilliant acting of Bogarte as the composer Gustave von Aschenbach and for the score by Mahler. With minimal dialogue this is a movie to be savoured and certainly not one for the typical Hollywood crow! A rare gem....more info
  • Great 2.35:1 image!
    The transfer of Death in Venice is a glorious 2.35:1 which really shows the beauty of the camera work and sightings. You will rediscover this masterpiece. The first images of Venice are astounding and the travelling in the hotel loaded with guests is beautiful.The image is clear and very clean. Only the English track is available. I would suggest turning on the subtitles (at least once for a try) because you will often get the translation of what is said in Italian, French and Polish(?). Not that it is much important, but that's interesting. As for the extras, you get a nice picture gallery, a good, long theatrical trailer without the usual spoilers and a documentary, Visconti's Venice. The latter is only about 9 minutes long, but you see the sets, Visconti directing, comments by Bogarde and a narrator presents the film process. An old hotel was restored for the filming purposes! It is quite interesting, but much too condensed. For the price, this is an excellent DVD....more info
  • The Harshness and Beauty of Life
    The word masterpiece in my opinion has been so much overused these days to describe any film which does not bore us to death after ten minutes,and in the process it has lost its true meaning. For we have to go back in time, to the golden age of artistic and creative cinema, 60s to late 70s to re-appreciate what Masterpiece really means.It is directors and artists like Fellini, Kurosawa, Truffaut, Fassbinder,and others that have defined the term with their vision, style and sheer poetry to the eyes and mind,that no other director has come close in our time, the age of finances and lawyers over essence.
    Artists like Visconti, with classics to his name (Rocco and his Brothers,The Leopard,),have enriched the cinema as an art form of the most sophisticated kind, an accessible intellectual platform to entertain and stimulate at the same time, which Death In Venice (1971) is an excellent example of.
    Adapted from Thomas Mann's novel, and starring Dirk Bogarde in top form, Death In Venice is a film that is very much the product of its time.(I would find it impossible with today's jittery sensitivities and more skeptical studios that it can be re-adapted).It is a film that is very intense in its philosophical questions, yet captivating in its simplicity and serene and gorgeous cinematography.
    An artist,composer/conductor,Gustav von Aschenbach, goes on a much needed vacation to Venice to recuperate after physical illness and mental exhaustion. There, his life will forever change when he sees a beautiful boy Tadzio (Bjorn Andresen).He admires the beauty of the young lad,at first with curiosity that soon turn into obsession, fueled by the boy's returned gazes, sometimes shyly, at others boldly and even indirectly intimidating. Tadzio intrigues Aschenbach, as he watches with increased interest the obvious and natural contradictions in the boy's youth between the 'virginal' innocence and the playful mischief.
    Yet there is more..
    Through flashbacks we know more about the artist's life: his deep grief after the death of his young daughter, the decline of his professional life and the public humiliation he endured, as well as his agony over the philosophical nature of beauty that he could not find an answer to.
    Amidst all this, Tadzio's beauty triggered in him all these demons, failures and doubts and pushed him to the depth of despair.In a way the artist needed this beauty/fantasy to restore his mental physical and creative health.
    We can also feel the artist's confusion when he says : What kind of road I have chosen? this illustrates the inevitable path to destruction he has taken, which deep down he knows is doomed from the start.
    Fate plays a dirty hand with Aschenbach when a mixed up in luggage forces the artist to return to the hotel after finally deciding to leave. After initial anger, and in one of the most powerful scenes in the movie, we see him returning to Venice with a smile on his face, for destiny has pushed him back in the arms of the 'idealism' he found in the boy.
    In another equally powerful scene, he sits on a bench at night, and say loudly : 'I Love You' ..this is a defining moment in the film , as we see all his defenses floundering and we feel that his end is nigh.
    Tadzio remains an object of 'platonic' obsession for the musician, for in my opinion he sees in him, the image of his lost daughter (there are some resemblance), the answer to the age old riddle of beauty's meaning,(Perfection vs Mediocrity) and at the end, the power of life itself..When Aschenbach is dying on the beach from cholera and reaches out for the boy who walks away into the sea and only looks back when is far away, it is also a confirmation that indeed Tadzio is like life, cold, unresponsive,and finally giving up on the artist: Tadzio was the hope that Aschenbach clung to till the very last moment without success.
    This makes Death in Venice a film that will force the viewer to think, yet soothes his eyes with breathtaking images, and with very serene scenes of family life at the beach side that in its domesticity and normalcy contradicts Aschenbach's own condition.
    I will think twice before using the word Masterpiece from now on, and reserve it to the very few films that truly deserve it, and Death in Venice is certainly one of them....more info
  • a forgotten masterpiece
    If you want to see what cinema as an art can do, then rent or buy this materpiece. Visconti, an opera director himself who directed the likes of Maria Callas and known for works like la terra trema and The Leopard, combines literature, music, and visual cinema like no other in rendering Thomas Mann's celebrated novella into film. All elements work in harmony, and Mahler's music, from Symphonies #3 and #5 fits into the tragic story of a composer (allusions are made to Mahler himself, whom Dick Bogarde astonishingly resembles)whose homosexual passion for a young boy (no actual sin committed aside from looking) leads him to his own destruction. Unberably tragic, visually stunning, alluring and damning, this is arguably the best adaptation of literature into film ever made. And the words of Nietzsche, O Mensch! Gib Acht! (Oh man, take heed!)are actually sung in the film. Not for every taste, but for those able to appreciate it a celestial treat....more info