Both trifles and structure are tossed out the door by director Ken Russell in this film. Here, historical content matters not so much as metaphors, feelings, emotions, and interpretations, and pay close attention, as every word and frame is intended to be important. The film takes place on a single train ride, in which the sickly, aged composer Gustav Mahler and his wife, Alma, confront the reasons behind their faltered marriage and dying love. Each word seems to evoke memories of past, and so the audience witnesses events of Mahler’s life that explain somewhat his present state. Included are his turbulent and dysfunctional family life as a child, his discovery of solace in the “natural” world, his brother’s suicide, his [unwanted] conversion from Judiasm to Catholicism, his rocky marriage and the death of his young children. The movie weaves in and out of dreams, flashbacks, thoughts and reality as Russell poetically describes the man behind the music.
British director Ken Russell started out training for a naval career, but after wartime RAF and merchant navy service he switched goals and went into ballet. Supplementing his dancing income as an actor and still photographer, Russell put together a handful of amateur films in the 50s before being hired as a staff director by the BBC. Russell made a name for himself (albeit a name not always spoken in reverence) during the first half of the ‘60s by directing a series of iconoclastic TV dramatizations of the lives of famous composers and dancers. And if he felt that the facts were getting in the way of his story, he’d make up his own — frequently bordering on the libelous. If he had any respect for the famous persons whose lives he probed, it was secondary to his fascination with revealing all warts and open wounds.
A film director since 1963, Russell burst into the international consciousness with 1969’s Women in Love, a hothouse version of the D.H. Lawrence novel. No director… read more
When is this getting a propoer bd/dvd release? I own the OoP dvd that was cropped to 4:3 and it is virtually unwatchable...but the only way I've experienced this wonderfully idosyncratic biopic.
Fairly focused fantasia on Mahler with some lovely moments of tenderness and sensitivity fair nearly crushed by the over-extended vulgarities of the 'Conversion' sequence. On balance a broadly successful exploration of the themes, motifs and factors adding-up to the music and blessed with some strong leading performances from Powell and Hale. Russell appears invigorated by the limited budget.
This was my first Ken Russell biopic. It’s a brilliantly expressive and flamboyant look at Mahler’s life as reflected upon by himself in the midst of a developing illness and failing marriage (sometime… read review