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Der Tod in Venedig : novella into film Meakins, Donald George

Abstract

The problem under investigation in this paper is that of the cinematic adaptation of Thomas Mann's novella Der Tod in Venedig. There are three main chapters. Chapter one provides background on the film's director, Luchino Visconti. It establishes the corpus of thought and film production into which the literary text is first assimilated. Chapter two details the major result of the director's attempt both to be faithful to his source material and to express something of himself — the changing of the novella's hero, Gustav von Aschenbach, from a writer into a composer loosely modelled on Gustav Mahler, and the concommitant use of music by Mahler. This pivotal change is discussed by an analysis of the director's own reasons for such a change and the pattern of ambiguity and irony created by the film's musical score. The third chapter deals with what has been gained and what lost in the process of adaptation; the gains derived from the visualisation of Venice and certain of the novella's characters, the loss of the philosophic dimension and the sense of tragedy. Individual additions and deletions are discussed with the stress being on the inclusion of the ten flashback sequences. The concluding remarks establish the individuality of Morte a Venezia, distinguishing between Mann's "tragic" novella and Visconti's cinematic melodrama.

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