Death in Venice (film)
Death in Venice is a 1971 film directed by Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti
Luchino Visconti di Modrone, Count of Lonate Pozzolo was an Italian theatre, opera and cinema director, as well as a screenwriter. He is best known for his films The Leopard and Death in Venice .-Life:...

 and starring Dirk Bogarde
Dirk Bogarde
Sir Dirk Bogarde was an English actor and novelist. Initially a matinee idol in such films as Doctor in the House and other Rank Organisation pictures, Bogarde later acted in art-house films such as Death in Venice...

 and Björn Andrésen
Björn Andresen
Björn Johan Andrésen is a Swedish actor and musician. He is best known for playing the fourteen-year-old Tadzio in Luchino Visconti's 1971 film adaptation of the Thomas Mann novella Death in Venice....

. The film is based on the novella Death in Venice
Death in Venice
The novella Death in Venice was written by the German author Thomas Mann, and was first published in 1913 as Der Tod in Venedig. The plot of the work presents a great writer suffering writer's block who visits Venice and is liberated and uplifted, then increasingly obsessed, by the sight of a...

(1912) by Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann
Thomas Mann was a German novelist, short story writer, social critic, philanthropist, essayist, and 1929 Nobel Prize laureate, known for his series of highly symbolic and ironic epic novels and novellas, noted for their insight into the psychology of the artist and the intellectual...



The protagonist
A protagonist is the main character of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical narrative, around whom the events of the narrative's plot revolve and with whom the audience is intended to most identify...

, Gustav von Aschenbach, travels to Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 for health reasons. There, he becomes obsessed with the stunning beauty of an adolescent Polish
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 boy named Tadzio who is staying with his family at the same Grand Hôtel des Bains
Grand Hotel des Bains
The Grand Hotel des Bains is a hotel on the Lido of Venice, northern Italy. Built in 1900 to attract wealthy tourists, it is remembered amongst other things for Thomas Mann's stay there in 1911, which inspired his novella Death in Venice...

 on the Lido as Aschenbach.

While the character Aschenbach in the novella is an author, Visconti changed his profession to that of a composer. "Playing the role" of Aschenbach's music in the film is the music of Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler
Gustav Mahler was a late-Romantic Austrian composer and one of the leading conductors of his generation. He was born in the village of Kalischt, Bohemia, in what was then Austria-Hungary, now Kaliště in the Czech Republic...

, in particular the moving Adagietto from his Fifth Symphony
Symphony No. 5 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor by Gustav Mahler was composed in 1901 and 1902, mostly during the summer months at Mahler's cottage at Maiernigg. Among its most distinctive features are the funereal trumpet solo that opens the work and the frequently performed Adagietto.The musical canvas and...

, which opens and closes the film, and sections from his Third Symphony
Symphony No. 3 (Mahler)
The Symphony No. 3 by Gustav Mahler was written between 1893 and 1896. It is his longest piece and is the longest symphony in the standard repertoire, with a typical performance lasting around ninety to one hundred minutes.- Structure :...

. Apart from this change, the film is relatively faithful to the book, but with added scenes where Aschenbach and a musician friend debate the degraded aesthetics
Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, and with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste...

 of his music; again, this has direct parallels in the life and works of Mahler, especially when Aschenbach is played an extract of his own work which, in reality, is Adagietto from the fourth movement from Mahler's Fifth Symphony.

While Aschenbach attempts to find peace and quiet, the rest of the city is being gripped by a cholera
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...

 epidemic, and the city authorities do not inform the holiday-makers of the problem for fear that they will all leave. As Aschenbach and the other guests make day-trips out into the city centre it eventually dawns on them that something is seriously wrong. Aschenbach decides to leave, but in a moment of impulse decides to stay. However, he himself is dying. Rejuvenated by the presence of Tadzio—though they never actually converse—he visits the barbers who, in his words, "returns to you merely what has been lost", dyeing his grey hair black and whitening his face and reddening his lips to try to make him look younger. As he leaves the barber's shop the barber exclaims: "And now Sir is ready to fall in love as soon as he pleases". Aschenbach still continues to gaze at Tadzio from afar, the latter more aware that he is being gazed at. In the climactic scene, Aschenbach sees Tadzio being beaten up on the beach by an older boy, and at that very moment—heightened by the crescendo in Mahler's Adagietto—he dies from the cholera infection. While Tadzio and the boy make up, they don't even notice Aschenbach dying, and they continue to walk along the beach while the other guests alert the hotel staff of what has happened. They then carry Aschenbach's body away.


  • Dirk Bogarde
    Dirk Bogarde
    Sir Dirk Bogarde was an English actor and novelist. Initially a matinee idol in such films as Doctor in the House and other Rank Organisation pictures, Bogarde later acted in art-house films such as Death in Venice...

     (Gustav von Aschenbach)
  • Mark Burns
    Mark Burns
    Mark Burns was an English film and television actor.Burns was born in Bromsgrove in the county of Worcestershire and educated at Ampleforth College, North Yorkshire...

  • Marisa Berenson
    Marisa Berenson
    Vittoria Marisa Schiaparelli Berenson is an American actress and model.-Early life:She is the elder daughter of Robert L. Berenson, an American diplomat turned shipping executive, who was of Lithuanian Jewish descent; his family's original surname was Valvrojenski...

     (Frau von Aschenbach)
  • Björn Andrésen
    Björn Andresen
    Björn Johan Andrésen is a Swedish actor and musician. He is best known for playing the fourteen-year-old Tadzio in Luchino Visconti's 1971 film adaptation of the Thomas Mann novella Death in Venice....

  • Silvana Mangano
    Silvana Mangano
    Silvana Mangano was an Italian actress.Raised in poverty during World War II, Mangano trained as a dancer and worked as a model before winning a "Miss Rome" beauty pageant in 1946...

     (Tadzio's mother)
  • Romolo Valli
    Romolo Valli
    Romolo Valli was an Italian actor.Valli was born in Reggio Emilia. He was one of the best known Italian actors from the 1950s to his death. He worked both for the stage and the silver screen...

     (Hotel manager)
  • Nora Ricci (Governess)
  • Franco Fabrizi (Barber)
  • Sergio Garfagnoli (Jaschu, Polish youth)
  • Luigi Battaglia (Scapegrace)
  • Masha Predit (Russian tourist)
  • Marcello Bonini Olas (Nobleman at hotel party)
  • Nicoletta Elmi (Little girl at table)
  • Marco Tulli (Man who faints at station)
  • Leslie French (Travel Agent)
  • Antonio Appicella (Vagrant)
  • Ciro Cristofoletti (Hotel clerk)
  • Dominique Darel (English tourist)
  • Eva Axén (Tadzio's oldest sister)
  • Bruno Boschetti (Train station employee)
  • Mirella Pamphili (Hotel guest)

Production credits

  • Director: Luchino Visconti
  • Cinematographer: Pasqualino De Santis
  • Screenplay: Robert Gordon Edwards
  • Art Director: Ferdinando Scarfiotti
  • Costume Designer: Piero Tosi
    Piero Tosi
    Piero Tosi is an Italian costume designer. His credits include Bellissima, The Leopard, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, Death in Venice, The Night Porter, and La Traviata. He won the David di Donatello for Best Costumes twice, as well as the 50th Anniversary David in 2006...

  • Production Designer: Ferdinando Scarfiotti
  • Sound Track: Vittorio Trentino, Giuseppe Muratori
  • Producer (associate executive producer): Mario Gallo
  • Producer (executive producer), Luchino Visconti

Behind the scenes

In his autobiography, A Postillion Struck by Lightning, Bogarde recounts how the film crew created his character's deathly white skin for the final scenes of the film, just as he dies. The makeup department tried various face paints and creams, none of which were satisfactory, as they smeared. When a suitable cream was found and the scenes were shot, Bogarde recalls that his face began to burn terribly. The tube of cream was found and written on the side was "Do not let this come into contact with the skin": the director had ignored this and had been testing it out, as small patches, on various members of the film crew, before finally having it applied to Bogarde's face.

In another volume of his memoirs, An Orderly Man, Dirk Bogarde relates that, after the finished film was screened for them by Visconti in Los Angeles, the Warner Bros. executives wanted to write off the project, fearing it would be banned in the United States for obscenity because of its subject matter. They eventually relented when a gala premiere of Death in Venice was organized in London, with Elizabeth II and Princess Anne
Anne, Princess Royal
Princess Anne, Princess Royal , is the only daughter of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh...

 in attendance, to gather funds for the sinking city.

Critical reception

Film historian Lawrence J. Quirk
Lawrence J. Quirk
Lawrence J. Quirk is an American writer, Hollywood reporter and film historian.-Career:Lawrence J. Quirk is the nephew of James R. Quirk, former editor and publisher of the now-defunct Photoplay magazine. He was an Army sergeant in Korea, a reporter for the Hearst papers, and a film magazine...

 wrote, in his study, The Great Romantic Films (1974), "Some shots of Björn Andrésen, the Tadzio of the film, could be extracted from the frame and hung on the walls of the Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

 or the Vatican
Vatican City
Vatican City , or Vatican City State, in Italian officially Stato della Città del Vaticano , which translates literally as State of the City of the Vatican, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of...

 in Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

." He says Andrésen did not represent just a pretty youngster as an object of perverted lust, but that novelist Mann and director-screen writer Visconti intended him as a symbol of beauty in the realm of Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

's David
David (Michelangelo)
David is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture created between 1501 and 1504, by the Italian artist Michelangelo. It is a marble statue of a standing male nude. The statue represents the Biblical hero David, a favoured subject in the art of Florence...

 or Da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

's Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa is a portrait by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. It is a painting in oil on a poplar panel, completed circa 1503–1519...

, the beauty that moved Dante
Delivery of Advanced Network Technology to Europe is a not-for-profit organisation that plans, builds and operates the international networks that interconnect the various national research and education networks in Europe and surrounding regions...

 to " ultimate aesthetic catharsis
Catharsis or katharsis is a Greek word meaning "cleansing" or "purging". It is derived from the verb καθαίρειν, kathairein, "to purify, purge," and it is related to the adjective καθαρός, katharos, "pure or clean."-Dramatic uses:...

 in the distant figure of Beatrice."


  • 1972 BAFTA Awards

Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Sound Track
  • 1972, Nastro d'Argento
    Nastro d'Argento
    The Nastro d'Argento is a movie award assigned each year, since 1946, for cinematic performances and production by Sindacato Nazionale dei Giornalisti Cinematografici Italiani, the association of Italian film critics...

Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Production Design.

Award nominations

  • 1972 Academy Award

Best Costume Design
  • 1972 BAFTA Awards

Best Actor, Best Direction, Best Film
  • 1971 Cannes Film Festival
    1971 Cannes Film Festival
    - Jury :*Michèle Morgan *Pierre Billard *Michael Birkett *Anselmo Duarte *István Gaál *Sergio Leone *Aleksandar Petrović *Maurice Rheims *Erich Segal...

Golden Palm (Best Film)
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