The origins of inspiration haunted the imagination of endless writers, composers, and artists of all kinds. When the book inspires a director, he or she usually has a choice: change a story and a name or let it remain the same, thus, opening a film to the comparison. In his work, Visconti opted for the latter providing numerous critics with a job. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the similarities and differences between Thomas Manns novel and Luchino Visconti’s cinematic adaptation.
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First of all, the most significant difference that influenced the image of the protagonist is the change of occupation. In the novel, Gustav von Aschenbach is a writer in search of inspiration. He is a respected member of society, a distinguished author who received a title from the government. His works are respected worldwide, and he is perceived as a moral pillar of the community, whose fall symbolizes the changing times. In the cinematic adaptation, however, he is presented as a composer, based on the life of Gustav Mahler. As a result, a character is a weak man, who always complains and follows his whims, creating a contradictory impression.
Secondly, Visconti decides to use the music of Mahler in his film, which seems bizarre and far too epic for the character. Where Mann wanted to show the spiritual dilemmas of the middle class, Visconti concentrated on the character’s obsessions and a lack of will. So, it is evident that the main difference lies in the interpretation of the main character.
One should note that despite these differences, the cinematic adaptation is close enough to the original work. Both the author and the director reflected on the brevity and fragility of human life, the desire to love and admire, and the controversy of this desire. The moral qualms of the wrongness of the protagonist’s infatuation and the contrast between the beauty of the youth and decay of the age and illness are conveyed in both works.
In summary, Visconti addressed the same issues in his cinematic adaptation as Mann in his novel. Both works are ahead of their time; they contemplate the regrets of the choices that were never made and the fleeting quality of beauty. Despite the difference in the presentation of the main character and additional music variations, the main idea of the book was conveyed in the film.