Tuesday, 11 October 2016


The view from within, a sight of a most public figure yet also one most secluded and now, approaching death, most isolated. Alone in his experience, yet surrounded by doctors, advisers and valets, facing down a situation wholly unusual and profound to the individual, yet entirely universal, Albert Serra depicts the Sun King, Louis XIV, from a perspective that only he could have devised, or realized in such a fashion. The Death of Louis XIV is sumptuous - bright, burnished gold and blood red sizzling through the screen, an entire world created in a single room, ably populated by a cast of characters inhabited vividly yet subtly by a fine ensemble. It is absurd - the degrading humanization of a man regarded as more than a mere human, the plain, unavoidable, unpretentious physicality of his agonizing descent toward death, yet plied with Alicante wine to simply dribble over his closed lips, or dressed in a fur stole atop his drab bedclothes. It is palpably real - close confines and excellent performances render this extraordinary environment realistic, even amid grandeur and artifice, both artistic and emotional. Serra pushes Jean-Pierre Leaud further than any other director in recent years, and pushes himself to refine his outlook without abandoning the distinctive philosophical and stylistic character of his alternative historical essays, and both succeed magnificently. With typically piquant, gently irreverent humour, The Death of Louis XIV is a genuine intimate epic, and Leaud's presence (and sporadic, eventually oppressive absence) permits it further import for the contemporary audience: the death of a cinema legend in the death of a historical one.