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Death in Venice

4.3 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Abroad on a rest holiday, composer Gustav Aschenbach (Dick Bogarde) is to all the world reserved and civilized. But when he glimpses someone who inspires him to give way to a secret passion, it foreshadows his doom. Director Luchino Visconti (Rocco and His Brothers, The Damned) transforms Thomas Mann's classic novel into "a masterwork of power and beauty" (William Wolf, Cue). Like Aschenbach, Visconti is an artist obsessed: his movies are awash in mood, period detail and seething emotions beneath placid surfaces. Earning its maker a Cannes Film Festival Special 25th Anniversary Prize, Death in Venice - with a soundtrack feast of Gustav Mahler music and a haunting Bogarde performance-is Visconti at his best.

Luchino Visconti's adaptation of the Thomas Mann novel is the very definition of sumptuous: the costumes and sets, the special geography of Venice, and the breathtaking cinematography combine to form a heady experience. At the center of this gorgeousness is Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde in a meticulous performance), a controlled intellectual who unexpectedly finds himself obsessed by the vision of a 14-year-old boy while on a convalescent vacation in 1911. Visconti has turned Aschenbach into a composer, which accounts for the lush excerpts from Mahler on the soundtrack (Bogarde is meant to look like Mahler, too). Even if it tends to hit the nail on the head a little too forcefully, and even if Visconti can test one's patience with lingering looks at crowds at the beach and hotel dining rooms, Death in Venice creates a lushness rare in movies. For some viewers, that will be enough. --Robert Horton

Special Features

  • Behind the scenes featurette: "Visconti's Venice"
  • Stills gallery

Product Details

  • Actors: Dirk Bogarde, Romolo Valli, Mark Burns, Nora Ricci, Marisa Berenson
  • Directors: Luchino Visconti
  • Writers: Luchino Visconti, Nicola Badalucco, Thomas Mann
  • Producers: Luchino Visconti, Mario Gallo, Robert Gordon Edwards
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parental Guidance Suggested
  • Studio: Warner Home Video
  • DVD Release Date: February 17, 2004
  • Run Time: 130 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000WN118
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,399 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Death in Venice" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: VHS Tape Verified Purchase
Luchino Visconti's film adaptation of Thomas Mann's novella is visually, if not philosophically, faithful to its source (Britten's opera offers a more faithful reading of the Apollonian/Dionysian struggles which consume the aging writer). It is certainly one of the most gorgeous films ever made.
In the Visconti version, the emphasis is more on the physical aspects of the story. Never has Venice looked more beautiful and alluring, more decadent and effete. If you've read the novella, it's like having the descriptions on its pages come to life. Dirk Bogarde gives an outstanding performance as Gustav von Aschenbach. Although he has very little dialogue, he conveys the bitterness, aroused passion and finally, pitiful yearning of Aschenbach through facial expressions alone. Bjorn Andresen, the actor who plays Tadzio, the beautiful young boy who is the object of Aschenbach's desire, was perfectly cast. He too plays the part with facial expressions and gestures. The Tadzio character is pivotal to the story, so any actor in this role must be worthy of inspiring passion and desire. Visconti, with his incredible eye for beauty, knew exactly what was he doing. And changing Ashenbach from a writer to a composer based on Gustav Mahler, and then using Mahler's music, especially the Adagietto from the 5th Symphony, was another brilliant stroke. Although I'd read the Mann story before the film, Mahler's music and Death in Venice will always be inextricably linked in my mind. As will the haunting images which appear throughout the film, especially that last one of Ashenbach dying on the beach as Tadzio walks slowly into the water.
This films begs for DVD presentation in widescreen format with its soundtrack digitally enhanced. It also deserves to be restored to original full length. It may be slow moving with little action, but its rewards are many.
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Format: VHS Tape
When I saw "Death In Venice" I was haunted by it's images for weeks. To this day, I cannot think upon this film without again experiencing some of the original feelings that it inspired. This is not, without question, an easy film to watch. The dialogue is sparse and the music is basically limited to Mahler's gorgeous Adagietto from Symphony No. 5. Notwithstanding, never has the marriage of music and film been more vital or more atmospheric. Mahler's haunting music was seemingly composed for this film and the effect is chilling. Dirk Bogarde is perfection as the bitter, vitriolic Gustav Aschenbach, a man so consumed with what he considers ideal beauty that he welcomes his own destruction for a moment in it's company. The young Bjorn Andresen is, too, equally captivating as the object of Aschenbach's obsession. Even though his role is essentially a non-speaking one, what he achieves within the lmiits of the role is extraordinary. The beautiful and elegant Silvana Mangano is on screen too infrequently for my taste, but her contribution is nonetheless wonderful. At times I found myself enveloped by this film, as if though I were a guest of the grand hotel quietly seated on a wicker chair watching these events unfold before me. Venice has never been more tangible on film than it is here. Do yourself a favor and watch this masterpiece of a film. One warning, though; "Death in Venice" is a devastating film and it takes it's toll on the viewer. Watch it in the company of loved-ones and on a beautiful, sunny day.
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Format: DVD
I wasn't too hopeful when I screened this film for 15 students immediately after reading Mann's masterpiece. In fact, I considered going instead with Von Sternberg's/Emil Jannings' "The Blue Angel" as a comparable narrative and proven cinematic success. But Visconti crafts a hypnotic and compelling film while Bogarde turns in the performance of his life. The lush cinematography and rich Mahler score are no mere "window dressing" but the very heart of the narrative, making the Dionysian currents that lap the Venice shores as irresistible to the attentive viewer as to the character of Aschenbach himself. I've never felt quite the same about a screen character--at once a pitiful caricature, his make-up melting under the hot Venice sun, and a noble figure who chooses his destiny.

This isn't a film for everyone. But as the final Mahler note was being sounded, one spectator excitedly whispered to me, "They got it." That's good enough for me.
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Format: VHS Tape
I first saw this film a few weeks ago when it was on TV and found it utterly brilliant! Its a thought provoking, visceral and moving tale of a composer (Bogarde) who has all but lost his ability to experience emotion and finds the beauty of a young boy disturbs him enough to re-waken his feelings. There can be no more than 30 conversations or exchanges of words in this tale of smouldering obsession and even less action or movement. Yet incredibly it keeps one riveted and fascinated all throughout its running time. Bogarde gives the performance of his life as his character and the plot develop partly through his increasing obsession of the boy and through the flashbacks of his life as a composer. Director, Visconti films in lavish beauty and style and sensibly intervenes as little as possible as the experience, (rather than plot) unfolds. Mahler's music fits the film perfectly and heightens the emotion throughout. Its a rare gem of a film, of which I have yet to see another like it, where virtually nothing happens, yet everything happens. Marvellous!
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