Film Diary: Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti, 1971)

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Death in Venice

A thing of beauty is a boy forever.

A priggish, buttoned-up composer, not a million miles in appearance from Gustav Mahlar, arrives in Venice in search of new inspiration and a glimpse of his fugitive vision of beauty. The former is disrupted when he seems to find the latter in the form of an impossibly beautiful Polish boy, but a plague corrupts everything; the vision of beauty remains elusive and the corruption finally claims takes the artist.

I saw this once before, when it was new. Heavens, in 1971 it got a week at the single-screen Embassy in Welwyn Garden City; that would be unthinkable these days. Anyway, this was one of the films that got me hooked on cinema. What amazes me, revisiting it, is how little I remembered.

The things I did remember included the electricity between man and boy, though nothing is exchanged but looks. There’s the gorgeous, lovingly lingering photography, and the music. You can’t go far wrong with Mahler, it was made to have a brooding masterpiece of perverted sensuality built around it. And yet. And yet, that something so sumptuous should ultimatelty be so bleak seems rather disappointing. Perhaps it was of its time, and hasn’t aged well. Perhaps you just had to be young and idealistic to appreciate it.

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One Response to “Film Diary: Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti, 1971)”

  1. tehuti Says:

    I too saw this when it first came out. It got me hooked on Mahler’s music and the works of Thomas Mann.


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