Saturday, October 15, 2016


Death is lethal, life is fatal and love is mortal


It all starts at the end with death entering the beach on the signal, call, invitation to lift yourself up towards the horizon and get through the door, the promise of some beauty that will never die and you have always looked for and had never been able to really find because you looked for it in pure patterns, motifs and other figures that were abstract in music and that rejected all emotions, sensations, passions, feelings. In other words the heart.

At the end of his life Gustav Aschenbach discovers that a teenager, hardly more than fifteen is the beauty he has looked for all along, and he finally finds when he accepts his senses, his eyes, and his sudden attraction and emotion in front of it, of him, of Tadzio. And the blatant and blinding beauty of this youth dances in his mind, becomes a whirlwind and a hurricane in his soul. He has fallen in love with that young man, well under age for sure, and he will close his life with that gesture towards the pure sky. He will try to imitate Tadzio’s gesture and he will die transmitting his insane project to this Tadzio who knew the old man was trying to get in touch with him but he was too young, and had too many relatives around him to try to contact that mysterious encounter in spite of his curiosity.

That’s the most insane desire an older man has: to be able to transcend death and transfer all that he has not done, he has not been able to do to that younger man he has never spoken to and yet has become an idol, an angel, a god even, definitely the one who will carry the old man’s future to that future the old man will never know. That feeling is disjointed, some critics will say. And it is, for anyone who considers the normal humdrum banal world of everyday to be the proper way of assembling the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. But if you look back in passion and in love, maybe in anger too, you find out it is the way you assemble the pawns on the chessboard just before dying that is the proper way, the best way to live in this world, and yet the older man is dying.

Everything in the film is of course transforming Venice into a trap for the older man, the composer and conductor, and yet an escape way for Tadzio, the teenager who has opened the oldezr man’s consciousness to what he had ignored, ,or refused to consider, all his life. And that is pure justice: the younger one must be able to escape the death of the older one but the younger one is then, entrusted with continuing the older one’s dreams, transcending their limits, transmuting their fears into light and heat, into bliss and ecstacy, the acme of spirituality, the spearhead of discovery and inventiveness.

Yet the epidemic spreading in Venice is turned into a very heavy and stifling atmosphere that reminds us of some kind of medieval vision of some plague, black or bubonic, who cares. And yet the film also has a hefty and even cruel sense of humor with the four street musicians singing for the hotel guests and yet provoking them as the foreigners they are who do not understand Italian, and that’s better for them because we can imagine from the body language of the main musician the obscenity of the discourse.

Some flashbacks enable us to understand the context of this old man, his happy marriage and fatherhood, and the burial of his daughter when she was still young, the debate with his main friend about music and purity, the refusal of evil in man and hence of any sentiment that would make the music too concrete and material to still be music. At the same time the hammering of Beethoven’s “Für Elise” when visiting what can only be a shady house and the same piece being played by Tadzio one day. Tadzio playing brings back the recollection of this event from the past back and it soils the boy in a way since he is associated with a shady lady with whom yet the old man had no contact at all, except her playing the music and her taking off some of her garments.

This is probably the real dilemma of the character: he always knew beauty was in the intensity of his desires and feelings, but he always refused to yield, well not quite always after all since he was married and had a daughter. But that was made pure by the sacrament behind the relationship and the procreative instinct. But was it only that or did it become that after the death of the daughter? You will not be able to answer that question. So we are back to the final scene which is the whole story we want to remember in two gestures, in some mute and silent body language that enables the older man to finally talk to Tadzio by imitating his gesture. And yet he will be carried away disgracefully by two hotel servants with the few last tourists who have not yet left significantly stepping back from him.

Death always has the last word and yet love may be able to have the next word, but the impossible connection with Tadzio makes this next word very problematic.

A beautiful very sad and yet humane film with the phenomenal music of Gustav Mahler in the background surging from time to time to the foreground.


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