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Death in Venice (1971)

Dirk Bogarde was at his finest as the dying composer rediscovering forbidden fruit in this dramatisation by director Luchino Visconti of the novella by Thomas Mann.

Bogarde’s composer (he was an author in the original novel) arrives in Venice at the beginning of the 20th century amid rumours of a cholera epidemic, troubled that he can no longer experience emotion. But the sight of Mangano’s teenage son (Bjorn Andresen) stirs feelings that have long lain dormant.

Bogarde did not so much play the part of famous composer Gustav von Aschenbach as become him. For most of the shoot, he ate apart from the crew and fed himself on boiled potatoes and fish.

Charlotte Rampling once went to visit him on the set. “I didn’t stay long. Aschenbach is not great company”. She observed: “He was haunted by his characters and they sort of morphed into him”.

Director Luchino Visconti was a master of colour composition and here he has created a haunting work that is as operatic as it is cinematic. It is perhaps too sedate in places, but Pasquale De Santis’s shimmering photography more than compensates.

Gustav von Aschenbach
Dirk Bogarde
Bjorn Andresen
Tadzio’s mother
Silvana Mangano
Frau von Aschenbach
Marisa Berenson
Mark Burns
Nora Ricci
Carol Andre
Luigi Battaglia

Luchino Visconti