The Strange Affliction of Anton Bruckner (Ken Russell, 1990, UK)

The Strange Affliction of Anton Bruckner is a 1990 film by director Ken Russell. One of the director's several films centering on the life and times of great composers, Bruckner explores a brief period in the life of 19th Century Austrian composer Anton Bruckner. A contemporary of Brahms and Wagner, Bruckner is less remembered than those two composers but his influence was significant - in particular on Gustav Mahler. He is one of the more perplexing figures in music history - a man who many perceived as "simple" but at the same time a musical genius. His humble personality contrasted with the braggadocious figures of the era like Wagner.

Bruckner, only an hour long, features the composer's stay at a sanatorium. Bruckner has fallen to the illness of arithmomania - he is obsessed with counting everything. During his stay at the sanatorium, he reflects on his life and encounters a nurse named Greta with whom he builds a romantic relationship. Little is known about Bruckner's romantic life (if he had one), so this aspect of the film seems to be speculation. However, Bruckner's arithmomania was a real phenomenon.

Bruckner is splendidly played by Peter Mackriel in an eccentric performance. This performance is enhanced by the music of Bruckner himself, with his Symphonies Number 7 and 8 featured heavily in the film's score. There is a picturesque quality to the grounds of the sanatorium, punctuated periodically by Bruckner being dunked into baths of cold water. While Bruckner is a minor work from Ken Russell, it nevertheless displays many of the director's strengths, in particular his ability to build worlds and also make interesting characters of historical figures. It makes an interesting companion piece to Ken Russell's films about Gustav Mahler (Mahler) and Franz Liszt (Lisztomania). Worth watching for classical music fans and Russell fans.



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