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Top Customer Reviews
The film takes place aboard a train; Mahler and his wife are both travelling on board. The trainride sees Mahler indulge in a number of flashbacks and nightmares, all of which provide the vehicle for Ken Russell to divulge the more salient episodes of Mahler's life. Among these are his childhood artistic inspirations, the rocky relationships he had with his wife & family and the unfortunate but infamous encounter he had with the emperor of Austria.
As a biography of a composer, this one does not rank up there with "Amadeus," "Immortal Beloved" or Richard Burton's "Wagner." However, it does do a credible job of engaging some of the more memorable epochs of his life, as well as his incessant infatuation with death. There are also some intentional anachronisms, such as his "meeting" with Cosima Wagner.
Far more important though, is the introspective look which the movie offers on the isolated existence of a tormented genius. The continual anguish of this friendly, misanthropic megalomaniac is felt throughout. Someone once asked Mahler, "How could a man as kind-hearted as you have written a symphony so full of suffering?" "It is," replied Mahler, "the sum of all the suffering I have been compelled to endure at the hands of life." Such is the theme of this movie. Such was the theme of Mahler's life. It is a theme sometimes gruesome, sometimes hauntingly beautiful, and always gripping. See this movie, and hear the theme for yourself.
A convalescing Gustav Mahler (Robert Powell) ponders his life while on a train trip with his wife Alma (Georgina Hale), who is having an affair with a military officer. While it covers certain events from his life, including the misery and tragedy of his childhood, the film's real strengths derive from its more fantastical aspects. Russell examines the composer's psyche in some bizarre, anachronistic, and sometimes darkly humorous vignettes, some of which have to do with Mahler's Jewishness in anti-Semitic "fin de siecle" Austria. Some highlights: Mahler debasing himself to prove his worthiness to a B&D clad Cosima Wagner during the musical number "Jewboy," sung to a very familiar tune by her husband; seeing his own funeral with Nazi pallbearers, a nude Alma frolicking to the playfully nightmarish Scherzo from his own Seventh Symphony; and his own frolics with what appears to have been his true love, Death.
Despite being the protagonist, Mahler is not completely a hero. Russell also examines Mahler's autocratic attitude towards his wife's composing, culminating in her burying her own compositions. The music selected for this scene is not by Mahler, but rather a Wagner piece with a very appropriate title. Perhaps this explains Mahler's phantasmic vision of Alma frolicking at his own funeral; does Russell have Mahler realize the delusion of consigning Alma exclusively to the role of muse, rather than leaving her to define herself as another creator?Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
this is a European region DVD and is the only version available last I looked. You'll need a region free player. It was transferred from a well used 35mm print. Read morePublished 4 months ago by cinemate
All this talk about death and less of the essential dichotomies in life! Perhaps if people really opened their eyes to the world, as Gustav Mahler did, they'd be more forgiving,... Read morePublished 15 months ago by P. cardiff
A characteristically over the top look at the last of the great symphonists and his tortured personal life. Read morePublished 16 months ago by Conrad York
I'm giving this five stars based on the theatrical release. There is no USA-formatted version of the film, which is disgraceful. Read morePublished 20 months ago by Randal J. Batty
Maverick British director Ken Russell made his name in the 60s at the BBC where he made several very good biopics of famous composers such as Delius, Debussy, Elgar and Richard... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Film Buff
A bold and somewhat `experimental' film form the highly eccentric British filmmaker/ auteur Ken Russell (he was also quite a Classical Music expert/aficionado). Read morePublished on July 12, 2014 by Book & Music thief, from HI
Interesting film. Ken Russel tries to have you live through the mind of Gustav Mahler and his troubled childhood.
There are some heavy-handed parts. Read more
Mahler's music in Ken Russell's 1974 movie lifts the spirits to great heights. A magnificent rendition of the master symphonist well packaged at an affordable price.Published on March 15, 2014 by Peter H Radcliffe
This movie is a must for all Mahler fans, of which I am one. Not only is the film unique in its portrayal of Mahler and his music, but it gives insight into Alma's role in his... Read morePublished on August 9, 2013 by Charles Stubbert