Monday, April 27, 2009

Death in Venice (1971)

Death in Venice tells about composer Gustav von Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde) who comes to Venice for a holiday, in the Lido island. He is a very reserved person, very unhappy because of the death of his dear daughter, and seems the hotel manager (Romolo Valli) is the only person he talks to. His life is changed when he sees a young Polish boy in a sailor suit, Tadzio (Björn Andresen), who, in his opinion, possesses the ideal beauty. He falls in love with Tadzio, but doesn't have any courage to talk to him. At first they only exchange glances, then Tadzio seems to come nearer. Later, Aschenbach stalks him, and finally: he caresses Tadzio's hair. Aschenbach tries to find out the truth about the health notices posted in the city so he can warn Tadzio's mother (Silvana Mangano), even though it means the family has to leave Venice and he cannot see the boy anymore. The movie ends with the death of the composer on the beach, straight after seeing perhaps the most beautiful vision in his life: Tadzio, his legs in the sea, pointing to the sun.

Based on a novel by Thomas Mann, Death in Venice is a beautiful movie. Luchino Visconti recreated Venice in 1911. If you have seen any work of Visconti, you know how he paid attention to details - and this movie is no exception. The character of Aschenbach is based on Austrian composer/conductor Gustav Mahler, so Visconti used Mahler music for the movie. [In the novel, Aschenbach is a writer.] Like Aschenbach, Visconti himself was obsessed by beauty. The movie itself is very very slow and perhaps only can be enjoyed if one is not in a hurry.

The face of Tadzio reminds me of Shinobu Ijuin from Haikara-san ga Tōru (published here under the title of 'Miss Modern' in the early 90's) by Waki Yamato, originally published in 1975-1977. The hairstyle is also similar. Ijuin is so beautiful that 'it pains me when I look at him', says his fiancée Benio.

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