So: dizzying editing, long montages containing some of the most beautiful, powerful and poignant music ever written, and a fine and witty performance by Powell --- no reason not to see this movie. Highly recommended for Mahler-enthusiasts and for those who have not heard one note of his. This just might be the best introduction.
He uses Karajan's recordings of Mahler for the soundtrack & fine they are too.
Ken Russell rides again, this time he's in familiar territory with another film about one the great classical composers. It was originally going to be made in Germany by MGM, the funding fell through after Savage Messiah (1972) was a massive flop, leaving poor Ken to do it on a shoestring budget, but it does lead to some inventive moments. Although on the surface this might look quite straight faced, it does have Ken decending into over the top fantastical moments. This one is about Gustav Mahler (Robert Powell), the Austrian composer who, now a sick, old man on a train journey with his wife Alma (Georgina Hale), looks back upon his life, and all the struggles he faced in it, whether it be his troubled childhood with abuse from father Bernhard (Lee Montague), his quest for musical perfection, and conversion from Judaism to Catholicism, done before Nazi Pope Cosima Wagner (Antonia Ellis), and because of anti-semitism, his troubled childhood and his brother Otto (Peter Eyre) killing himself, the death of his daughter from scarlet fever, but how his love to Alma conquers all tragedy. It is beautifully shot and Ken gets the best out of his locations, Cumbria's Lake District doubles for Bavaria, which would be used again for Russell's next film, Tommy (1975), which Powell also appeared in. Oh, and Oliver Reed makes an uncredited cameo as a station conductor, the film brings out the best in Mahler's music, and Ken brings out the best in everything.