Death in Venice (Luchino Visconti, 1971)
I HAVE never been so involved in a story as in The Godfather. It's the characters: they are fully developed from the very beginning. Usually it takes time to build and develop characters, but these you know instantly.
It is done with examples, such as when Al Pacino's character Michael Corleone doesn't want to be photographed without his girlfriend, showing his rebelliousness within the family unit. You see straight away he is the black sheep. Then when the FBI photograph Sonny on the streets, he takes the camera and smashes it, and then pays for the damage. He has a schizophrenic personality.
Instantly, you are connected. You care about the family. So it's easier to understand how inside the law, there is another law that takes care of itself. There aren't enough cops to go round, so the Mafia has created its own law: it's honourable, but frighteningly so.
You smell the power coming off the screen, especially when Pacino develops into "the son" again when his father is shot. We are going to see something really special: it's as though Pacino has joined the war, although all the while he has been a general, just on a hill watching from a distance. Towards the end of the film, Pacino's wife asks him whether he did kill the sister's husband, he screams at her for daring to ask, and says that for once he will tell her the truth. And then he answers with a lie. You realise what this man is capable of.
With very little words and wonderful music, it's possible to be captivated for two hours by Death in Venice. It's an intimate story, at times very dark, and also very sweeping. The film deals with the Dirk Bogarde character's obsession with a young boy, and how he is prepared to give up his own life for the obsession, and stay in a town even though a plague is approaching.
If there was absolutely no dialogue and all we heard was Mahler's Fifth Symphony, in particular the 4th movement in adagio, you feel that particular music could do the talking for the movie. The music is so emotional and it makes you feel everything Dirk Bogarde, who plays the German composer, is feeling.
You can watch a movie and not realise you are being emotionally tapped by the music because it's incredibly subtle, and also very brave. It's probably what the world would call too artistic. There is a great story about Visconti watching the movie with people from one of the big studios. After it had finished, one of the hotshots said: "The movie was OK, but I'd really like to use the guy who did the music." This was 60 years after Mahler's death.
The obvious similarity between these films is the music. They both use such emotional music that you could sit and feel they are part of each other. The other similarity is how they understand the dilemma of the characters, especially the internal struggle of the lead characters: Pacino could have walked away and become respectable; Bogarde could have left Venice.Reuse content