Death in Venice turns fifty in 2021. The moment of the pandemic may be one reason to look back at this film about cholera in Italy. The release of the documentary The Most Beautiful Boy in the World (2021), about Bjorn Andrésen who starred as Tadzio, is another. But what is most enduring is Visconti’s engagement with the family, and above all with the mother. This calls for reflection in the present moment when maternal eroticism and its relation to maternal subjectivity are newly illuminated in feminist writing. Through extended analysis of Silvana Mangano’s presence in the film, her wardrobe, and her gestures, this article argues that Visconti opens a space for feelings of heartbreak, love for the mother, and grief at her desire. In its vision of madness in the family, beyond its images of cholera in Venice, this is a pandemic film unafraid to look into the vortex.

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