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Friday, January 28, 2005


Film Review - Death in Venice (1971) (How the hell was I suppose to know it was a guy?)

Checked out the DVD of Luchino Visconti's interpretation of Thomas Mann's 1910s era book "Death in Venice" from the MD Anderson Library. The 1971 movie "Death in Venice" is about an early 20th Century dying German composer (Mann wrote him as a scholar and historian) who goes to Venice on an extended rest. Gustav Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde) is the reserved and civilized composer, and through a series of unfortunate events arrives in V-town looking for rest and pleasure.

Yes Aschenbach is down, but when spys a glimpse of the young Tadzio (Bjorn Andresen - the one time most beautiful boy in the world), of which in him Aschenbach has seen the "ideal classical beauty," his attention and desires become most gathered.
How the hell was I suppose to know that the seemingly attractive young looking girl on the DVD cover was actually a boy -- because it looked like a young girl to me.
Evidently, I did not read between the lines enough in reading the back cover,
"he glimpses someone who inspires him to give way to a secret passion, it foreshadows his doom."
Hell I was thinking more along the lines of Brooke Shields in "Pretty Baby," and thank goodness there was no nudity in this movie -- because I know I could not have handled the gay sex.

At the end of the first of many (unspoken) encounters, Aschenbach becomes obessessed with young Tadzio and regrets each time he encounters the young lad that he did not take some action to quell his inner desires.

Again thank goodness for self-control in Aschenbach, because young Tadzio with his body language at times was oozing his passion for a hidden encounter between the two to the point that when Tadzio gets out of an elevator he turns around to Aschenbach, practically wishing Aschenbach would get off the elevator and follow him to his room. Again thankfully that did not happen.

When Aschenbach suddenly decides to leave the resort (following his greatest chance for an encounter), he sees young Tadzio in the dining room, and both stop as to greet each other as if they know each other, but alas no words are spoken and Aschenbach leaves for Germany. When Aschenbach gets to the train station, he regrets not speaking to the young lad, and decides to stay on account of a luggage error. The train station also yields information about the growing Asiatic Cholera epidemic that is growing in Venice, which Aschenbach confirms in a confidential conversation with a local banker.

At this point, Aschenbach stalks young Tadzio with the lad's tacit approval, while Tadzio and his family tour Venice as it deteriorates beyond traditional description. He idealizes the young boy to the point of worship, even daydreaming of pleading a warning to Tadzio's Polish family of the dangers that Venice's siege of plague (not to mention that he actually touches the boy) -- thankfully all that was in his mind.

"Death in Venice" ends after Aschenbach (who had since gussied himself up with a new due and make-up), and follows young Tadzio to the beach for the last time. While Aschenbach is resting in a chair, Tadzio, who is playing with a friend becomes embroiled in a playfight that gets a little out of hand, thus raising Aschenbach's heart rate to the point of no return. Aschenbach begins the process of final death as he watches Tadzio walks off his humiliation in the evening surf. Tadzio's heroic pose sends Aschenbach off in death.


"Death in Venice" requires patience in viewing. If you walk away you have to pause it. I guess that's the way Thomas Mann wanted it -- and now I wonder if Mann placed himself in the Aschenbach world as a matter of practice for the character of Aschenbach.

Hey 'uh, it was a guy!
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