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Death in Venice (1971)

Morte a Venezia (original title)
GP | | Drama | 5 March 1971 (Italy)
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While recovering in Venice, sickly Composer Gustav von Aschenbach becomes dangerously fixated with teenager Tadzio.

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 ... 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 Gustav von Aschenbach (Sir Dirk Bogarde) 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 (Björn Andrésen), 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

Language:

English | Italian | Polish | French | Russian | German

Release Date:

5 March 1971 (Italy) See more »

Also Known As:

Death in Venice See more »

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Box Office

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$5,558
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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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

Writer, Producer, and Director Luchino Visconti considered Sir Alec Guinness, Sir John Gielgud, and Burt Lancaster for the role of Gustav von Aschenbach. See more »

Goofs

TV aerials clearly visible on Venetian rooftops in one scene. See more »

Quotes

Gustav von Aschenbach: You know sometimes I think that artists are rather like hunters aiming in the dark. They don't know what their target is, and they don't know if they've hit it. But you can't expect life to illuminate the target and steady your aim. The creation of beauty and purity is a spiritual act.
Alfred: No Gustav, no. Beauty belongs to the senses. Only to the senses.
See more »


Soundtracks

Neue Lieder (Wer Bei Den Frauen Glück Haben Will)
(uncredited)
Written by Armando Gill
See more »

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User Reviews

 
The best possible film of Mann's novella.
7 June 2004 | by ItalianGerrySee all my reviews

Luchino Visconti's "Death in Venice" is a masterpiece of utterly haunting beauty that will capture the imagination of anyone interested in the screen's capacity for breathtaking images. It is a poignant tragedy based on Thomas Mann's classic novella of the same name. Visconti has captured many of the essential qualities of the book and employed a superb visual style (with the assistance of the great cinematographer Pasqualino DeSantis) for a story which is essentially an interior one. It is about the struggle within the soul of a man, Gustav von Aschenbach, a composer vacationing in the Venice of 1911.

In Mann's book Aschenbach was a writer, but Visconti asserted that the book had been inspired by events in the life of Gustav Mahler, whose music, mostly the haunting adagietto of his Fifth Symphony, is used as background (and foreground) music, helping create an almost tactile mood of melancholy.

Dirk Bogarde plays Aschenbach, a man possessed by feelings of failure, haunted by the grief he and his wife (Marisa Berensen) shared over the death of their daughter. He is a man on the precipice of emotional collapse who finds both redemption and destruction in the contemplation of beauty. "The creation of beauty and purity is a spiritual act." God and composers are alike.

In this film beauty becomes incarnate in the form of a young Polish boy vacationing at the same hotel, the Hotel des Bains on the Lido. The boy's stately mother is played by Silvana Mangano. The long-haired blond boy is Tadziu, aged 14, played by the Swedish Bjørn Andresen. Aschenbach is smitten by, then obsessed with, the boy's beauty, in a manner that is more spiritual than sexual, but which must also contain a good deal of sublimated sexual longing.

At first he merely steals opportunities to look at the lad. They never speak. Gradually he starts to seek him out, self-destructively spurred-on by the boy's coquettishness and knowing glances. Bogarde makes the character's longing as tangibly moving as it is ultimately pathetic.

All this takes place in a misty Venice dense with metaphorical gloom and a mysterious plague (cholera) carrying death to its inhabitants. In one horrifying scene a barber "re-makes" Aschenbach's face so that it is both a grotesque parody of youth and an ominous death mask.

Visconti's skill in recreating lush period detail, to paint family-album poses of aristocracy, to make beauty seem dangerous, to underline the complexity of human psychology, are all in evidence here. The color photography by Pasqualino De Santis, and the costumes by Piero Tosi are excellent.

The ending of the film is unforgettable: Gustav languishing on the beach, the Polish folk song in the background, the boy Tadziu in the water turning into an angelic apparition with extended hand. Overwhelming!

I cannot imagine a better film ever being made of Mann's great and essential work.


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