Mahler (1974) - Ken Russell
Ken Russell's Mahler takes place on a single train ride between Gustav Mahler and his wife, Alma, as they confront the reasons for their faltering marriage and love for one and other. Besides this shell of a structure, Russell opts to through all narrative out the window, focusing on Mahler's emotions and feelings which lead him to where he is. Through a ton of flashbacks, some very surreal, we see how Mahler's past has shaped his present. I really like this idea of Mahler's personal life being in turmoil because of his art. The film shows us how he sacrifices everything- His marriage, his children, his religion for the sake of his music. There are so many memorable scenes from Mahler's interpretation of his death, capturing all the insecurities and pessimism, to the sequence where Mahler embraces Catholicism, which was just hilarious and fun. Russell's disdain for Catholicism is in full effect during that sequence. Pretty much every frame, every composition, has a purpose in showing us something about Mahler's life. The scene where he witnesses his father cheating on his mother is a perfect example of Russell's heavy use of symbolism- the pitch fork laying perfectly on the center of the young boy's forehead, the image piercing deep into a young Mahler's mind. From an emotional standpoint, I found sequences to be incredibly effective, particularly the small scene about the death of his daughter. I found this film to be more focused and less zany than films like Lisztomania and Tommy, and while I like those films a lot too, this one reached me far more on an emotional level. Thinking about it, this could very well be my favorite film of Ken Russells which I have seen.
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