Film – Ken Russell – Mahler

Ken Russell’s Mahler

Friday – May 19 – 2:00pm
Boedecker Theater at the Dairy Center
2590 Walnut Street (26th & Walnut)

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Ken Russell (1927 – 2011) is best known for his Oscar-winning films Women in Love (1969), The Devils (1971), The Who’s Tommy (1975), and the science fiction film Altered States (1980). In addition to his film about Mahler, Russell also directed several films based on the lives of composers including Elgar, Delius, Tchaikovsky and Liszt.

Ken Russell’s Mahler can best be described as being a creative adaptation of Mahler’s life.

Robert Powell as famed composer Gustav Mahler dons blackface and sings “Mammy” at one point in Ken Russell’s maddening burlesque of his life. Framed by flashbacks during Mahler’s train journey towards his deathbed in 1911 Vienna, Russell permits glimpses of the composer’s life through a series of moving and/or ridiculous snippets: Mahler is seen to have had an oppressive childhood –which is reflected in his early compositions; his grudgingly taking up the conductor’s baton so that he can find time to compose his symphonies; his confused relationship with his wife; his conversion to Judaism; his obsession with death. And yet through it all, Russell manages to convey the loneliness of the artistic soul.

(Ken Russell, 1974, UK, 1:55, PG)