Not topping the book, but what scenes and what sounds!

Review of Death in Venice (1971)

Review of Death in Venice (1971) movie, by Stefan Stenudd


From the first to the last scene of the movie, director Visconti excels at his art, to the extent that the movie is ensured to remain as a cultural treasure for only God knows how long.



       It is perfection - as a movie, that is, but the story has some minor shortcomings.

       Thomas Mann's novel is also a perfect piece of art, so of course it is impossible to bring into another media. Visconti follows the story pretty much, and it is only when he allows himself to deviate slightly, that the transition falters. And no matter how wonderful the scenery is, the tension in the air between the characters, the hundreds of subtle signals and allegories, the almost unbearably heightened serving of Mahler's music - still, the minute anomalies in the plot disturb me.

       Maybe I'm just a victim of man's desire to flaw the flawless. Nevertheless, I will offer one example, which I regard as crucial.

       In Mann's story, Aschenbach eats the strawberries which probably contain the disease that will kill him, after giving up his frustrated chase of the boy Tadzio in Venice. Unable to catch one delight, he settles for another - which poisons him. It is very subtle in the book, but it is there. The forbidden fruit, of sorts, but more a sign of him surrendering life itself.

       In Visconti's film, he also eats strawberries, but in a rather insignificant scene by the beach. The chase in Venice ends in a much more melodramatic way. It works, too, but lacks some subtlety, indeed, and also the multi-layered symbolism, giving food for thought.

       But that's all forgiven, when the film allows us to feast on beautiful sceneries, faces and constellations, and certainly as many other symbols as we can possibly digest - the last gesture of Tadzio, standing in the water, being the equally sublime and mysterious finale.

Stefan Stenudd
7 January 2003




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Ever Young. Novel by Stefan Stenudd. Sunday Brunch with the World Maker. Novel by Stefan Stenudd. All's End. Science fiction novel by Stefan Stenudd.
Tao Te Ching - The Taoism of Lao Tzu Explained. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Tao Quotes - The Ancient Wisdom of the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Cosmos of the Ancients. Book by Stefan Stenudd.
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Tarot Unfolded. Book by Stefan Stenudd. Your Health in Your Horoscope. Book by Stefan Stenudd.




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I'm a Swedish author of fiction and non-fiction books in both Swedish and English. I'm also an artist, an historian of ideas and a 7 dan Aikikai Shihan aikido instructor. Click the header to read my full bio.