Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Death in Venice

Morte a Venezia; Drama, Italy/ France, 1971; D: Luchino Visconti, S: Dirk Bogarde, Björn Andrésen, Silvana Mangano, Marisa Berenson, Romolo Valli, Mark Burns, Nora Ricci

Venice at the beginning of the 20th Century. Famous German composer Gustav von Aschenbach arrives in town and immediately stumbles into bad luck: some lunatic addresses him with: "Your Highness" while the gondolier doesn't listen to him and ignores his directions. He settles in a hotel and philosophises with his friend about life. His nihilism and pessimism get disrupted by a 14-year old boy, Tadzio, in whom he falls in love with. Gustav goes on a journey to Munich, but returns to his hotel since his luggage was accidentally sent into a wrong town. Venice is hit by a plague while Gustave dies on the beach not telling Tadzio anything about his affections.

Ambitious, but not especially stimulating elegy "Death in Venice" enjoys a high reputation thanks to the bizarrely brave story in which the old Gustav falls in love (?) with a 14-year old boy, Tadzio. In that aspect it's a big waste that from some relationship nothing happens because Gustav doesn't know his language and doesn't even say anything to him, thus the story as a whole turns out painfully slow and rather useless with (too) minimalistic direction by the pretentious Luchino Visconti and strenuous empty walks. The film is a meditation about life, derived from any kind of action or event, and maybe it doesn't talk about pedophilia as much about symbolical reflections about lost youth and an unreachable ideal (both presented in Tadzio) or even the quiet suffering of the people who are afraid to live their dreams, but in the end it's much better in the portrait of the nihilistic Gustav and some of his dialogues with his friend ("Reality just destroys dignity" or "You don't have fear because it's an emotion and you don't have emotions"). Dirk Bogarde is very good in the leading role but his Gustav just passively walks and mutters something about life and that's mostly the whole film which isn't some kind of a big wisdom - even though "Death" was nominated for a Golden Palm in Cannes and for a BAFTA for best film, director and main actor, it's a shaky contemplative piece of art because the author took more care about the atmosphere than for the story or it's characters.


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