Death in Venice (1971) - Rotten Tomatoes

Death in Venice (1971)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Based on a novel by Thomas Mann, Death in Venice stars Dirk Bogarde as a German composer who is terrified that he has lost all vestiges of humanity. While visiting Venice, Bogarde falls in love with a beautiful young boy (Bjorn Andresen). The relationship is ruined by Bogarde's obsession with the boy's youth and physical perfection; the composer realizes that the child represents an ideal that he can never match. The character played by Dirk Bogarde is evidently intended to be Gustav Mahler, whose haunting music is featured on the film's soundtrack. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Watch it now


Dirk Bogarde
as Gustav Von Aschenbach
Silvana Mangano
as Tadzio's Mother
Marisa Berenson
as Frau Von Aschenbach
Mark Burns
as Alfred
Romolo Valli
as Hotel manager
Sergio Garafanolo
as Polish Young Man
Carole André
as Esmeralda
Nora Ricci
as Governess
Leslie French
as Travel Agent
Sergio Garfagnoli
as Polish Youth
Luigi Battaglia
as Scapegrace
Ciro Cristofoletti
as Hotel clerk
Dominique Darel
as English Tourist
Bruno Baschetti
as Railway Worker
Mireilla Pompili
as Hotel Guest
View All

Critic Reviews for Death in Venice

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (3)

Visconti takes the veneer and calls it furniture. With infinite tedium, he pores over every facet of Tadzio's Botticelli visage.

February 7, 2018 | Full Review…

Visconti's mastery of visual style almost succeeds in creating the very ideas and feelings that his heavy-handed narrative entirely misses.

October 23, 2004 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Instead of bringing the story to life, Visconti has, I'm afraid, embalmed it.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

There is much that is good in Death in Venice but long before it is over the movie begins to sink under the weight of it all.

November 15, 2018 | Full Review…

Even critics who didn't like Visconti's version of Mann's novella praised Dirk Bogarde in the lead and the film's production values, especially costume design, which was Oscar nominated.

April 12, 2012 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

Can never get to the literary heart of the novel without stumbling along on a curiously suffocating course.

September 22, 2008 | Rating: B | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Death in Venice

Moments of perfection.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy Smith

Super Reviewer

Like the sand in the hourglass, there is no stopping the passage of time. This cinematic achievement is unmatched in its visual eloquence, but remains an emotionally unsatisfying experience. Long shots, slow pans, and silence, only punctuated by Mahler’s symphonies, create emotional distance. On first appearance, Aschenbach is a man already in decline: His cultured facade doesn’t mask an underlying vulgarity. Alienated from his artistic and spiritual impulses, he recognizes an idealized and pure beauty in the form of a pre-pubescent boy, which does nothing to create a more sympathetic character. His realization is much too late, just as the population in Venice is dying from pestilence, and a way of life is dying at the turn of the century. As we follow the boy, it is hard to tell if Tadzio’s glances, poses, and posturing are real or just Aschenbach’s fantasy. During the final scene, we view the sea and sun, the promising horizon formed in the initial scene, but now glittering and hazy. Aschenbach, appearing clown-like with his whitewash and greasepaint, silently observes Tadzio pointing at the sun, and he also reaches out, as if grasping for communion, and dies. Posited on the beach, there is a symbolic, unmanned camera, ready to frame Tadzio in a snapshot. Hauntingly, the final shots rest on Aschenbach’s dripping and smudged death mask, before he is toted off like the sands like garbage. There is a statement about art, beauty, sexuality, and spirituality, residing in this film, but to me it was quite dead.

Stefanie C
Stefanie C

Super Reviewer


A classic of Italian cinema! It's very slow -VERY- but it's definitely worth it. The art direction and the cinematography are amazingly beautiful as in almost all of Visconti's films. On the other hand, since the plot is so slow and it requires such empathy to understand the character's motives and his strange attraction towards the boy, it's a love it or hate it movie, no in-betweens. Sometimes it´s hard to follow because the conflict (the inner conflict) that Bogarde's character has in regards of the concept of beauty as well as the awakening of his nostalgia for his family is occasionally unclear. It's a movie one has to feel and give patience to. Oh and don't be encouraged/discouraged by the alleged homosexual love plot, I personally put down that thesis. I think it's much deeper than that.

Elvira B
Elvira B

Super Reviewer

Death in Venice Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features