A somewhat trite but totally accurate way of describing this movie would be to call it an interesting but extremely self-indulgent work from Luchino Visconti. Visconti was known for his "operatic" style of filmmaking, which resulted in movies decried for their length, unrealism and overall weirdness (Conversation Piece, etc.). This movie was met with disapproval upon initial release; it's based on Thomas Mann's autobiographical novel (no, I haven't read it). The main character in it was a writer like Mann; Visconti changed it to a composer modeled on Mahler (whose music is used wonderfully in this film); hence, the disapproval. This is no bio-pic, but that's what some were anticipating; the movie was misunderstood and dismissed by many. Death In Venice is the story of Gustav Van Aschenbach (former light comedian Dirk Bogarde; his "serious" acting is perhaps not entirely convincing), a German composer in need of rest after a collapse. His only child is dead, and his latest compositions have been reviled; his best friend calls his theories about life and music wrong and reprehensible. Aschenbach is a burnt-out person. Coming to Venice at the beginning of the movie, he checks into his beach hotel and proceeds, for the remainder of the film, to follow around a young boy named Tadzio (played by the patently Swedish Bjorn Andresen), who represents the ideal of classical beauty, and who has, for most of the movie, no personality except what Aschenbach projects onto him. In the background, the Venetians fear that they may get cholera in their city, and aren't allowed to tell anyone; but Aschenbach eventually finds out. He doesn't leave however; he feels revitalized and younger (due in part to being put in "youthful," very creepy make-up by his barber). Obviously, the title finally comes to life (pun intended). The film is 130 minutes long. Visconti paces the film, as was his wont, very slowly. His remarkable trademark throughout the film is setting the camera in the center of a room, and observing all the action from there through use of the zooms lens and other tools. This means we get to see everything and everyone in the room before we get to the "important" stuff (possibly a legacy of Visconti's theoretical Marxism and desire to show up the rich and idle). The movie's widescreen is used exceptionally; wait for a DVD release, or try to see a (very rare) revival. However, there's just too much excess in the film, much of which is unnecessary; surely, there's another way to create atmosphere in a shorter length of time. And some of the material, such as a Russian nanny singing a lullaby on the beach as Aschenbach wanders over it all alone (unintentionally recalling Lawrence Of Arabia) is just plain campy. But it's a movie well-worth seeing, a unique experience as much for its failures as successes.