Death in Venice holds a 76% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Film historian Lawrence J. Quirk wrote, in his study, The Great Romantic Films (1974), "Some shots of Björn Andrésen, the Tadzio of the film, could be extracted from the frame and hung on the walls of the Louvre or the Vatican in Rome." He says Andrésen did not represent just a pretty youngster as an object of perverted lust, but that novelist Mann and director-screen writer Visconti intended him as a symbol of beauty in the realm of Michelangelo's David or Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, the beauty that moved Dante to "...seek ultimate aesthetic catharsis in the distant figure of Beatrice."
In 2011, writer Will Aitken published Death in Venice: A Queer Film Classic, a critical analysis the film, as part of Arsenal Pulp Press's Queer Film Classics series
Based on a novel by Thomas Mann, Death in Venice stars Dirk Bogarde as a German composer who is terrified that he has lost all vestiges of humanity. While visiting Venice, Bogarde falls in love with a beautiful young boy (Bjorn Andresen). The relationship is ruined by Bogarde's obsession with the boy's youth and physical perfection; the composer realizes that the child represents an ideal that he can never match. The character played by Dirk Bogarde is evidently intended to be Gustav Mahler, whose haunting music is featured on the film's soundtrack.