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on 26 February 2002
Luchino Visconti's Death in Venice, like no other film I know, seems to have as many detractors as admirers. Critics refer to the apparently muddled storyline and infidelity to Mann's original Novelle.
The Novelle is undoubtedly a masterpiece of late Romantic Symbolism, but in my personal opinion the film stands on its own as a work of art. For me, the performance of Dirk Bogarde, Pasquale de Santis' stunning photography and the inspired choice of Mahler for the soundtrack unite to form a quite unforgettable tour de force, quite the most moving and awe-inspiring film about beauty ever created.
I would also add that Björn Andresen, who plays the androgenous youth so perfectly, was never a member of Abba, as a previous reviewer believes to be the case.
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on 6 September 2004
This film still remains one of the purest pieces of cinema. With little dialogue (unless your Polish is ok) the film is wholly visual in its approach to the communication of a sense of place, time and meaning. Bogarde tells the story of an creative artist who beleives that only man can create true beauty in a purity which can not be found in nature. His chance encounter with a beautiful boy reveal to him how mistaken his belief is. His own death dressed in the artifice of the beautician/barber who tries to restore his youth is in the end a celebration of life. The splendour and decay of Venice presents a perfect setting.
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on 28 November 2010
The director of this film Luchino Visconti was a great admirer of the music of Gustav Mahler. Although he adheres closely to Thoma Mann's novel (Thomas Mann attended the first performance of Mahler's 8th symphony), Visconti, cleverly, in my view makes several references to the tragic aspects of Mahler's life. I was drawn to this film after hearing the adagietto from Mahler's 5th symphony and 'Oh mensch gib acht' from symphony No 3 which are both hauntingly beautiful. In the novel Gustav Von Aschenbach is a writer, Visconti in the film potrays Von Aschenbach as a composer who travels to Venice to seek refuge from the various tragedies that have beset him, notably the death of his young daughter, hence the link with Mahler. I have seen this film several times and my sense is that the film is a potrayal of a man (Aschenbach) who is longing for beauty in a world that he has grown weary and disillusioned with. He finds beauty in the form of a beautiful male youth (Tadzio)and becomes obsessed with him. The film when first released was perceived by some critics to have a strong Gay theme. I can understand where these ideas come from, however my sense of the film is the longing for beauty and youth in an individual who having grown older and weary from life's struggles ultimately longs for some reconnection with his earlier life and happiness before his weakened heart gives up. The ending is very tragic but ultimately moving. If you have yet to see this film please do as it is one of those cinematic experiences that hopefully will stay with you, and of course you have the wonderful music of Gustav Mahler as a major asset to the film's overall atmosphere.
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on 9 November 2004
This has to be one of the finest films ever made.
The film has haunted me since I first saw it over 30 years ago. Its scale is operatic, the widescreen photography stunning. Yes it's pace at times is a little sedate, but as I get older it reflects one's own maturity, sitting with dignity and watching consumate beauty. It is only at the end of the film that Bogarde's character (Ashenbach) lets down his guard in an attempt to impress the boy. The boy is somewhere between a child and a young man, he still has the playful qualities of a child but on the other hand he has the coyness of a youth who is aware of the effect he has on others. Bogarde's character is quiety amused by the child yet finds the antics of the youth somewhat intimidating.
The final scene is devastating because though the boy has had the most profound effect on Ashenbach to the boy it is little more than a fleeting and non consequential episode. Did Ashenbach die with an image of beauty as a final vision or did he realise the boy was just a shallow unobtainable goal?
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on 18 March 2005
This is an absolute classic. Dirk Bogarde is superb playing the troubled Gustav Von Aschenbach, I would go as far as to say it is one of his finest roles. Adapted from the novella of Thomas Mann, this film is a true credit to the industry of cinema. It has a very well scripted plot that tells the audience everything without needing to show graphic details. It tells of Aschenbach's obsession with a boy named Tadzio...though nothing is ever done about it, he simply watches him from a distance in an admiring manner. The ending of the film is so unbearably tragic that once you see this film it will remain with you forever... Don't let this film pass you by...watch and enjoy.
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on 22 June 2007
A great film with great performances. Bogarde is superb. It contains many deep undercurrents and is deeply moving. Tadzio represents,in my opinion, the Angel of Death - hence his pointing to Heaven at the end. A not to be missed film with stunning photography. I just wish they would re-master it and improve the sound quality.
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This was the film that set the seal on Dirk Bogarde's transformation from capable, good-looking juvenile lead to genuinely fine actor. There had been signs of it before - in ACCIDENT, for example - but this was the real thing. The celebrated final scene proves it.
However... the film - taken as a film, rather than Dirk Bogarde's coming-of-age - has many flaws. It is slow. This need not be a problem, but it's ponderous too, which is. The cinematography is excellent - except for several intensely irritating examples of over-use of the zoom lens, which make it look at times like Uncle Fred playing with his new camcorder.
Then there are many clumsily didactic scenes where Gustav and his friend discuss Art, with a very capital A. Show, don't tell, Luchino!
Let's not dwell too much on the forest of radio and TV aerials which appears behind von Aschenbach's head around 1 hour into the film or Tadzio's oh-so-carefully-blow-waved hair. These anachronisms aren't too disturbing in the context of the film when taken as a whole.
Just remember the excellence of Bogarde's performance and the decayed beauty of Venice under scirocco skies, and enjoy the film on that basis.
Techicals - visuals on this enhanced-for-widescreen DVD are fine. The colour is good, though muted, and free from intrusive defects. I wish I could say the same for the sound. Considering the importance of the soundtrack to the overall impact of the film - von Aschenbach is a composer, not a writer, in this version of the story - the state of the audio is an absolute disgrace. The dialogue is fine, but the music track is in mono (for a film made in 1971?) and suffers from a distinct speed variation throughout. It sounds like an off-centre record. The dreadful sound quality came close to ruining the final scene for this viewer. Universal, get your finger out and find the original soundtrack and remaster it properly. It's unacceptable in its present condition.
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VINE VOICEon 5 July 2002
A commercial failure at the cinema due to the fact that many movie distributers wouldnt touch it, it made the rounds in Art Houses and gained many admirers. Now, often shown on late night BBC. It is one of the most beautiful, haunting films ever made. Slow and solemn, it tells the story of a dying composer who is sent to Venice to recuperate. He then develops a crush on a young Polish boy and follows him around a cholera stricken Venice. The final scene of the composer dying of heart failure as he watches the boy wading into the sea is painful to watch. There is much to admire in this film, notably Dirk Bogarde;s sensitive performance as the dying composer, the Venice scenery; and of course the wonderful music composed by Gustav Mahler. Indeed, a movie producer admired the music so much he asked if Mahler could be signed up not realising that Mahler had died 60 years previously!!! If you like Art House films, and especially if you are an admirer of Mahler's music like I am, then it will be a good buy. One thing though, the sound is not up to scratch and needs to be digitally remastered for a DVD release to make it a worthwhile purchase. Moreover, it also needs to be seen in widescreen rather than full screen. Fans should demand a DVD release soon.
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on 2 March 2000
This is the performance of Bogarde's career. The adaptation of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice is spellbinding. I haven't seen this film for years, but the lasting images of him in the deckchair on the beach watching the boy play in the surf as he cries and his make-up runs are as clear as the day I watched this. Mahler's moving music makes this an almost perfect film.
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on 28 May 2001
I must admit to long associating the late Dirk Bogarde with the series of weak 'Doctor...' movies. But not anymore! Arguably one of the most moving screen performances, Bogarde's beautifully understated acting carries the film through a good deal of dialogue-free scenes. He is totally rivetting to watch as the dying composer who finds desire awakening in him again. Everything about Bogarde from his facial expressions to his body movements are superbly crafted and the final scene on the beach reaches a symbolic brilliance. Much of the credit for the genius of this film must also go to its director,Visconti. I am not familiar with any of his other films but some of the direction reminds me of Peter Greenaway at his best. Venice is a very grand cinematic city but the way this film is shot and the atmosphere of decaying beauty portrayed stays with me long afterwards. The score is wonderfully evocative too. An immense film carried by an immense acting performance.
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