Death in Venice

The lagoon city as a setting for many novels

Venice in winter – dark alleys next to the lapping of the water in the canals – fog covering the entire city. Those who have often been to Venice do not need much imagination to invent the darkest stories and thoughts in this bleak time. Although the city of love, as Venice is called by many, has many positive aspects such as the carnival and the romantic idyll of the city on the water, topics like sickness and death have long inspired writers and filmmakers in this city.


Venice – a city of contrasts

Hardly any other city is characterised by such opposing attributes as Venice. While many consider the lagoon city to be the city of love and a picturesque gem on the water, novels and films usually paint a very different picture. The city frequently appears in a morbid, mysterious and dark manner. Those who have seen Venice once in the autumn or winter – when the fog occupies the city and mystery is found around every corner – can probably understand this contrast very well. The spectacular backdrop of Venice also offers a suitable background to many spy movies and thrillers.


Famous movies and novels in Venice

Many destinies have been recorded in literature and in the movie world in Venice, and it is here that protagonists often meet their end. The Italian director Luchino Visconti is an especially famous example in this regard with two films. In the film “Senso” (1953) the city proves to be the undoing of an Italian countess during the Italian war of liberation. However, Visconti created a masterpiece with his film adaptation of Thomas Mann’s novellaDeath in Venice” (1970). The German composer Aschenbach stays here on holiday in Venice and falls in love with a young Polish boy while the cholera is raging in the city. At the end the artist dies – as one might expect.

But other film directors have also used the death in Venice theme in their films. In Nicolas Roeg’s film “Don’t Look Now” (1973) a pair of artists tries to forget the death of their child in Venice. Illusions of the disappeared child eventually lead to death. “The Comfort of Strangers” (1990) by Paul Schrader also begins here. A couple comes to Venice to renew their love once more and they also lose their way and eventually find death in the lagoon city.


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