Tag: Death in Venice

September 25, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Kristoffer Tronerud

Italy, 1971. 130 min. Alfa Cinematografica/ Warner Bros. Cast: Dirk Bogarde, Bjørn Andresen, Marisa Berenson, Mark Burns. Music: Gustav Mahler; Cinematography: Pasqualino De Santis; Produced by: Luchino Visconti; Based on a Novella by: Thomas Mann; Written by: Luchino Visconti, Nicola Badalucco; Directed by: Luchino Visconti

“The artist is like a hunter in the dark”, bemoans Gustav, the tormented hero of Luchino Visconti’s Death in Venice, “they know what their target is, but they don’t know if they’ve hit it!” While this is certainly true of Gustav, nothing could be less true of Luchino Visconti, a masterful commanding artist who knew exactly what he wanted, and, most often, got it. In the contemporaneous promotional short Visconti’s Venice, Dirk Bogarde, (who plays Gustav with a brave and ego-free poignancy) notes with amusement that “I provide the tracks, but Visconti brings the train.” Another, very different, Italian master, Sergio Leone, was speaking of himself, but might as well have been describing Visconti, when he said “It is essential that all the details seem right, never invented. A fairy tale captures the imagination most when the setting is as realistic as possible”. Visconti was the master of detail; engineering every visual touch, every texture, every last element of costuming, set design and prop placement (indeed, on Death, he seems even to have controlled the weather itself), so that by the time the shot is played out, his languid camera need only pass over the proceedings in a final masterful brush stroke to bring home the powerful truth of each passage of this magnificent fairy tale.