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Death in Venice by Will Aitken


A Queer Film Classic on Luchino Visconti’s lyrical and controversial 1971 film based on Thomas Mann’s novel, about a middle-aged heterosexual artist (played by Dirk Bogarde) vacationing in Venice who becomes obsessed with a youth staying at the same hotel as a wave of cholera descends upon the city. The book analyzes the film’s cultural impact and provides a vivid portrait of the director, an ardent Communist and grand provocateur. Known variously as “The Red Count” and “the director of the dirty bed sheets,” Visconti, along with Roberto Rossellini, Michelangelo Antonioni, Vittorio De Sica, and Federico Fellini, revolutionized Italian film and became one of the giants of world cinema. Although he never spoke directly about his homosexuality, it was an open secret, and many of his works, like Death in Venice, were suffused with it—from the first Neo-Realist film, Ossessione, to Rocco and His Brothers to The Damned and the epic Ludwig.

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Queer Film Studies