August 14, 2009

Death In Venice (1971)

My Ratings:
Production Design (wardrobe/hair+makeup & set design & milieu) = 9
Performances/Direction = 7.8



Death in Venice is a 1971 film by the legendary Italian director Luchino Visconti adapted from the 1912 Thomas Mann novel of the same name. The story follows an esteemed musical composer Gustav von Aschenbach, who sojourns to Venice in hopes of restoring his health. (Actually, most of it takes place on Lido, an island off of Venice), While there, von Aschenbach becomes entranced by the Platonic beauty of a young, adolescent boy named Tadzio. It is insinuated that he actually falls in love with the boy, despite never coming in physical contact with him. To the solemn and cerebral von Aschenbach, Tadzio represented all the pleasures and passions that he had rejected in his life, a life dedicated to the fastidious, ascetic quest for what he declares as "artistic purity."

von Aschenbach arriving on a gondola

Can you believe the man is in a heavy coat and full suit in that heat?

Tadzio, the boy he becomes obsessed with. Btw, love that stain glass panel in the background.

The film moves slowly, with minimal dialogue but contains some of the most visually mesmerizing sequences you'll ever see on screen. von Aschenbach spends his days watching Tadzio play on the beach and allows the relaxing island atmosphere to transform him into the kind of person he used to despised - that is, someone who simply idles. Meanwhile, the city is gripped by a devastating outbreak of cholera, which the officials try to keep under wraps as to not scare off the tourists. But even as von Aschenbach becomes privied to the knowledge of the contagion, he finds himself unable to leave.

The beach. Love the small row-boats with the navy coloured varnish.

Boardwalk. Love that striped canopy. Also, those greenish-teal sheds in the back remind me of Provincetown, where I spent many summers as a child. Btw, can you imagine wearing those dresses/that much clothes while at the beach?! And those gigantic hats! I would be sweating bullets!

von Aschenbach in a full suit and tie on the beach. He set up a little table and attempted to "do work."

ah, but how can he concentrate with that pretty boy frolicking about in his adorable one-piece swimsuit?!

Here he is again, at breakfast, pretending to read his newspaper but he's really just watching the boy's family, dining at another table. He is flustered because the boy isn't there yet. Like his temple-less glasses.

The boy's family having breakfast. Cute straw hats the girls are wearing.

The boy passes him as von Aschenbach leaves the dining room. Btw, he totally knows that this middle aged man is in love with him. And he kind of relishes the idea too.

The story takes place in the early 1900s, which is one of my favorite eras (along with the 1930s and 1950s) in terms of fashion. It doesn't matter to me that much of the style from that period is entirely outdated and not applicable to the modern woman. A good example of the embellished glamour of ladies' clothing from that period can be seen on Tadzio's mother. She's gorgeous. And her clothes are gorgeous too.

Here she is reading a book on the beach, in her white dress, multi-stranded pearl necklace, massive hat topped with roses and enveloped in yards of netting. How perfect is this image?

Another day at the beach. She carries an umbrella to block out the sun despite already wearing a gigantic hat that is serving the same purpose. She's even wearing gloves.

Here she is indoors, in an extremely ornate pink ensemble. It just seems like she's constantly wrapped in lots of chiffon & tulle.

Walking the streets of Venice. Black & white suit-dress with matching umbrella.

And before I sign off, I wanted to quickly mention some other design elements. Here is the elaborate lobby/lounge of the hotel. I was surprised it looked more Victorian than Venetian.

von Aschenbach's hotel room. Notice the monogrammed semi-sheer drapes. Also that large suitcase/steamer trunk in the middle of the room is actually used as a kind of portable closet, in which you can hang your clothes instead of folding them.

Here's a better view of that wardrobe steamer trunk. You can see him reaching in to grab his clothes.

And finally - check out that magnificent carved headboard. LOVE.

So there you have it. I'm going to sleep now. It's almost 7am.

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