In three chapters, this documentary tells Mahler's story during the period when he is head of the Vienna Opera, in realist form and going against any romanticized images we may have of the subject. The film places the spectator in Mahler's shoes and investigates using documented evidence (drawing from the latest research discoveries) and a visual sensuality, the ambiances, sounds and colours, trends, ebbs and flows, successes, and also the fanaticism and hostilities as Mahler felt and experienced them himself.
Mahler's portrait comes to life through the places he took possession of: his office at the Vienna Opera, his conductor's podium, his summer home where he composed and his fetish objects: glasses, musical scores, manuscripts … . The idea is not to present a fixed image for the spectator, but to suggest the musician's personality so that those watching can develop their own impressions and images of the musician. His voice only, is played by an actor. This is therefore not a docudrama of an actor incarnating Mahler, but a vision attempting to recreate the soul of a man, rather than an idol.
A TV-Essay on Gustav Mahler by and with Leonard Bernstein including excerpts from Mahler's symphonies and song cycles
Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Riccardo Chailly, Simon Rattle and Bernard Haitink