La Mort de Louis XIV (The Death of Louis XIV)
10th October 2016 8.45pm at Ciné Lumière
12th October 2016 8.45pm at Curzon Soho
Catalonian film director Albert Serra’s latest piece La Mort de Louis XIV (The Death of Louis XIV) continues his examination into the theme of death through the vehicle of history and real or fictional characters. As in his previous endeavour The Story of My Death, which saw an unusual encounter between Casanova and Dracula, the simple plot is the basis for a succession of scenes where specific philosophical ideas and opinions are expounded upon.
At the outset, the aged king, played with awesome grace by veteran actor Jean-Pierre Léaud, still retains much of his habitual vigour by going on excursions to the Versailles gardens, eating and drinking heavily, and flirting with the ladies at court. However the growing pain in his left leg gradually consigns him to his bedchamber where the rest of the drama takes place. The movie’s slow, ponderous momentum is played out through a series of tableaux beautifully shot by Jonathan Ricquebourg using natural light sources, betraying inspiration from the baroque painter Georges de la Tour’s handling of light upon the few figures that populate his paintings. Once the king is bedridden, the rest of the film plays rather like the staging of a doctor’s report of his patient’s final hours. La Mort is seldom boring though, as we listen in on the various debates between the king’s own medical practitioners who often relied mainly on traditional methods, the university-trained doctors from the Sorbonne, as well as quacks and witch-doctors who are brought in once all else has failed.
The candid, almost documentary feel of the feature comes through in the claustrophobic, often humiliating close-ups of the king as he submits to his many doctors’ relentless attempts to heal him. It is only towards the end, as he lies motionless in bed and looking towards the camera, seemingly listening to the regal (and anachronistic) melody of a Mozart mass playing on the soundtrack, that his royal splendour momentarily returns. La Mort de Louis XIV does drag on after a while however, as the wait for death often does, but it nonetheless is an intriguing and beautifully mounted contemplation of the tug of war that raged between religion and science during the early days of the Enlightenment.
La Mort de Louis XIV (The Death of Louis XIV) does not have a UK release date yet.
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Watch the trailer for La Mort de Louis XIV (The Death of Louis XIV) here: