Mahler

  • 1974
  • Movie
  • PG
  • Biography

This is one of the few Ken Russell films that does not offer drugs or religious overtones as the major theme. Instead, MAHLER is a slow biopic about the life of composer Gustav Mahler. Although Powell's portrayal of the tortured genius is a fine one, the story drags on like a politician's speech and would have benefitted from the infusion of imagery that...read more

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This is one of the few Ken Russell films that does not offer drugs or religious overtones as the major theme. Instead, MAHLER is a slow biopic about the life of composer Gustav Mahler. Although Powell's portrayal of the tortured genius is a fine one, the story drags on like a politician's

speech and would have benefitted from the infusion of imagery that has become Russell's trademark. The film is a series of flashbacks on a train as Powell is returning to Vienna for the final coda of his life. The flashbacks concern the artist's rotten youth, his relationship with wife Hale (not a

very good one), his conversion from Judaism (as he is elected to a high post and bows to the mounting anti-Semitism that overran Europe at the time), and his obsession with his own mortality, a source of neurotic angst that plagued him until he died in 1911. The film ends on an ironically hopeless

note (D-flat, we think) as Mahler, who thinks he's getting better, is actually growing more ill and is doomed to his demise rather quickly. There are some stirring sequences, mostly concerning Mahler's music, which is treated like a character on its own. There are also several scenes depicting the

composer's loneliness that are quietly as effective as the larger, rousing scenes. Characteristic of most of Russell's work, MAHLER looks exquisite; it's fortunate that his Baroque excesses have taken the place of his customary hallucinogenic ones. The sets, costumes, and all production values are

first-rate, and Hale is excellent as Powell's wife, a woman who sacrificed a promising career in music for the sake of her husband. Oliver Reed, a favorite of Russell's, does an unbilled cameo as a stationmaster.

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  • Released: 1974
  • Rating: PG
  • Review: This is one of the few Ken Russell films that does not offer drugs or religious overtones as the major theme. Instead, MAHLER is a slow biopic about the life of composer Gustav Mahler. Although Powell's portrayal of the tortured genius is a fine one, the s… (more)

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