'Nothing is stranger or more ticklish than a relationship between people who know each other only by sight, who meet and observe each other daily - no hourly - and are nevertheless compelled to keep up the pose of an indifferent stranger, neither greeting nor addressing each other, whether out of etiquette or their own whim.'
Thomas Mann, Death in Venice
I think I must have seen some of the 1971 film adaptation of Thomas Mann's Death in Venice at some point in my life. I don't remember watching it, but as I watched the recent airing on TCM, there was something familiar. Like the movie itself, there was a dream like quality about some of the scenes that were potently familiar.
I think every gay man, especially those like myself who grew up in the 80's and 90's, had periods of our youth where relationships were created through visual contact only. Before coming out, there were many guys, especially in Jr high and high school, who became an important part of my life, even though we may never have actually have spoken.
This theme is what hit me most while watching the film, particularly through the brilliant performances by Dirk Bogarde and a 16 year old Björn Andrésen as Tadzio. What was so interesting to watch was Tadzio's reaction to being obsessed over. At times, it was clear he knew, liked and responded positively to what was going on. Now maybe that's wishful thinking, but it is usually the hope of the longer, that the person being longed for will somehow give even the weakest of positive responses
he face, and of course the hair have barely changed.
Cover of Composer Benjamin Britten's Death In Venice Opera
It is not surprising the book spawned not just two film adaptations, but a stage play, and opera and a ballet. Even in the 1971 film, the music played a powerful part of the storytelling and in a couple of scenes, the two main characters were without a doubt, doing a dance. They may not have been touching, but there movements were definitely flowing in response to the movement of the other.
Below are a few other stage adaptations of Mann's story, and a bit more of the dance.
Maximilian Ostermann as Tadzio at Berlin’s Schaubühne (2013)
Edvin Revazov as Tadzio for The Hamburg Ballet, Hamburg (2003)
Celestin Boutin as Tadzio at the Garsington Opera at Wormsley (2015)