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Death in Venice Essay: Every Great Man has a Flaw

Aschenbach was certainly an artist. A very decent one. He had his life planned out, was very accurate and organized. Perhaps even a bit boring, monotonous. He was a hard-working man, he had that certain motus animi continuus. He was seen as a genius. From the beginning, he wanted to become known, to become famous, but his life was empty. He yearned for a change of pace, for some action, adventure and unpredictability of what might come. He was afraid of ‘breaking out’, yet he was also afraid of being trapped.

Then he goes to Venice, where all will change. In his hotel, he sees a young boy by whom he is fascinated. The young boy is the perfect image of a happy, idle child that has all it desires, all Aschenbach never had; his childhood was rather gloom since it was spent mostly at home and indoors, he didn’t meet many people and he certainly never had that laisser aller attitude that the young boy so obviously possessed. Aschenbach studied the child and found out that his name was Tadzio. The sound of his name was almost musical. Aschenbach would sit on the beach and watch him play, the young child that, in his point of view, looked like the god Apollo. Slowly but surely, he became obsessed with Tadzio, with his youth, beauty, effortlessness and his idleness.

Whilst being obsessed with this young boy with whom Aschenbach has no connection or relation, around him disease broods. The plague is sweeping over Venice, unnoticed at first and denied by the Venitians. They are all lying, denying and acting as to make sure the tourist business will continue to thrive through this period of silent turmoil. People are dying around Aschenbach, while he is alive in the midst of death.

If he would have been wise, he would have left as soon as he started considering the fact that there was indeed a plague in Venice. Yet he could not leave. He was so immensely drawn to Tadzio, he could not make himself leave. After he finally takes the step to leave the wretched place of contagion, his bags go missing, giving him the opportunity he subconsciously longed for; to stay longer with a cause. Even when his luggage is returned, he has no intention of trying to leave again. Instead, he stays to be close to Tadzio, with whom he believes to have a bond.

Essay on Visconti’s Interpretation of Mann’s Death in Venice

Visconti’s Interpretation Mann’s of Death in Venice

Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” is a very complex novella. To put it on screen, a director has to pick the most important (or easiest to portray) elements from the mythological, psychological and philosophical lines of the story. The plot would remain largely intact. I am most interested in the story of Aschenbach’s homosexuality, so I would be concerned with the strange-looking men, Aschenbach’s dreams, and the parallel between the denial of the sickness in Venice and his own denials about Tadzio.

Throughout the novel, Ashenbach notices strange-looking men. The same language is used to describe the features they share. The first is the catalyst for his adventure. The traveler is clean-shaven, snub-nosed, a redhead, with furrows between his eyebrows and his teeth bared (p 4 Norton Critical). Next are a hunchbacked, scruffy sailor and the theatrical goateed ticket-taker (13). Then, the old fop in the yellow suit. He has a sinewy neck, dentures, a floppy hat, and a habit of running “the tip of his tongue around the corners of his mouth in an obscenely suggestive manner,” (14). Aschenbach arrives in Venice only to be confronted with another blip on his gaydar, the gondolier. He is brutal-looking, with a yellow sash, unraveling straw hat, blonde hair, a snub nose, bared teeth and furrows between his eyebrows. He tells Aschenbach “You will pay,” (18). The last strange fellow, the guitarist, comes much later on. He is emaciated, with a shabby hat, red hair, scrawny neck, beardless, pale, a snub nose, with furrows between his eyebrows and a habit of “letting his tongue play lasciviously at the corner of his mouth.” He also smells of disinfectant (50). The guitarist, like most l…

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…es linger on his admirer, and Aschenbach does not seem as pathetic. The object of his affection is willing, and we lose some of the tension from the novel. Most of the mythological, psychological and philosophical references have been removed. Visconti makes Aschenbach a composer, not a writer, with a strong relationship to his (dead?) family. His character is not as fully rendered as in the novel but it is sufficient. Tadzio is probably the best part of the movie. The casting was spot-on and one can see how a grown man could fall in love with that. Some of the strange men are there, most notably the guitarist, but the repetition is not emphasized. The film shows Venice’s descent into epidemic well, with the street bonfires and disinfecting of the streets. Overall the movie is almost watchable for an art film, but it does not do justice to the very complex novella.

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