Death in Venice tells the story of Gustave Aschenbach (Dirk Bogarde), an unconventional composer. Aschenbach seeking rest and relaxation tries to find it in a tranquil Venetian coastal holiday resort – Grand Hôtel des Bains on the Lido. Unfortunately he does not find the peace he so desperately wants as his distracting attraction of 15 year-old, Tadzio (Bjorn Andresen), keeps him from achieving it. Tadzio is also vacationing at the same resort with his family. To Aschenbach, Tadzio symbolizes the perfection of beauty and his initial attraction develops into an obsession.
Unbeknown to the holidaymakers, Venice is under the stranglehold of a cholera epidemic. Venetian authorities, fearing the mass exodus of holidaymakers, keep the situation a secret. But when Aschenbach and the other tourists staying at the resort visit the city centre, they become aware that something is dreadfully wrong. After making the decision to leave, Aschenbach decides on impulse to stay on even though his life is in danger. He finds himself revitalized by the presence of the stunningly beautiful Tadzio. In a desire to appear more youthful Aschenbach seeks the services of a barber.
The film pays perfect attention to period detail with the result that the representation of 1910 Venice is wonderfully pleasing.
“Dirk Bogarde gave the greatest performance of his career, in fact one of the greatest of any screen performances, in Visconti’s magnificent 1971 version of the Thomas Mann novel”
— Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian
“As the mannered, camp composer, Bogarde turns in an exquisite performance, relying on actions rather than dialogue to capture the frail hesitancy of this old pederast.”
—–Jamie Russell, BBC
Did You Know?
A key difference between the movie Death In Venice and the novel is that of Aschenbach’s career. In the book he was an author and in the movie, a composer. It is reported that Burt Lancaster wanted to play the character of Gustave Aschenbach. Review our Gay Themed Films Here