Film review

Death In Venice

OPENS FEBRUARY 14, CERT 12A, 130 MINS

Either painfully slow or magnificently elegiac according to taste, Luchino Visconti's adaptation of Thomas Mann's novel stars Dirk Bogarde as Gustav von Aschenbach, a composer seeking solace in pre-WWI Venice following a breakdown. At his hotel, he glimpses a 15-year-old boy (played by the perturbingly pretty Björn Andrésen), for whom he develops an obsessive infatuation at a discreet distance. This is more than the last fling of a repressed gay paedophile, however. With his pristine, alabaster features, the boy represents an ideal of beauty which confounds the composer, whose aesthetics have previously revolved around the notion of cold, technical perfection. Yet in the presence of this boy he melts—literally, thanks to an ill-advised application of hair dye.

Aschenbach is clearly based on Gustav Mahler—passages from his symphonies are lacquered across the soundtrack, adding to the intoxicating, tragic air of the film. Though many would feel less easy with the subject matter in 2002 than in 1971, it still represents a wonderfully grandiose visual meditation on perfection and decay.

Rating: 4 / 10


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