Reviewer's Rating 3 out of 5  
Death in Venice (Morte a Venezia) (1971)
12

It's not often that a film's success is almost solely a result of its soundtrack, but that's certainly the case with "Death in Venice".

A turgid adaptation of Thomas Mann's story of sexual obsession, Luchino Visconti's film is bolstered by its glorious score - courtesy of Mahler's third and fifth symphonies - but has little else to recommend it.

Dirk Bogarde leads the cast as the aging German composer Gustav von Aschenbach. He becomes inexorably drawn to the fair-haired beauty of a young boy he sees in a Venice hotel.

Awestruck, Aschenbach slowly becomes obsessed with the flirtatious youth (Björn Andrésen), even extending his stay in the city despite the fact that a cholera epidemic has just broken out.

As the mannered, camp composer, Bogarde turns in an exquisite performance, relying on actions rather than dialogue to capture the frail hesitancy of this old pederast.

Dismissing hotel staff and porters with a flick of his wrist, gazing longingly at the young boy's figure and forever padding his face with a handkerchief, Bogarde's consumptive hero is perfectly suited to the crumbling decadence of the Venetian locations.

Yet Visconti's pretentious attempts to stamp his own artistic credentials on the material turn this adaptation into a painfully soporific experience.

The Italian director clearly believed he was making an important film, but in reality "Death in Venice" is scuppered by its delusions of grandeur.

Becoming little more than a visual backdrop for the score, "Death in Venice" is a shallow piece of cinema.

Not even the classical soundtrack can turn this ponderous portrait of one man's obsession into the cinematic classic it has so often been mistaken for.

End Credits

Director: Luchino Visconti

Writer: Luchino Visconti, Nicola Badalucco

Stars: Dirk Bogarde, Mark Burns, Björn Andrésen, Silvana Mangano, Romolo Valli, Marisa Berenson, Nora Ricci, Carole André, Leslie French, Franco Fabrizi

Genre: Drama, World Cinema

Length: 130 minutes

Original: 1971

Cinema: 14 February 2003

Country: Italy/France

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