On vacation in Venice, where he hopes to regain a sense of human emotion, urbane, repressed composer Gustav von Aschenbach (Bogarde) checks into a luxe hotel swarming with haute bourgeois tourists. When he spots Tadzio (Andresen), a blond youth who to him represents the classic ideal of beauty, Aschenbach experiences an unexpected surge of passion – and develops an unhealthy obsession he knows will never be requited.
Why we love it
Luchino's resplendent adaptation of Thomas Mann's novella is a sumptuous feast for the eyes, with its meticulous period detail, lavish costumes, and decorative sets. Yet the themes of death and decay are ever-present, manifested in a mysterious plague sweeping the ancient city that hotel staff attempt to hush up. Bogarde was never better playing the obsessive, uptight Aschenbach, closely modeled after Gustav Mahler, whose lilting music suffuses every frame. A heady meditation on art and passion, "Death in Venice" is a trip well worth taking.