The legendary Jean-Pierre Léaud played the Sun King on the eve of his death. He came to present The death of Louis XIV with the catalan director Albert Serra at the International Independent Film Festival of Bordeaux (FIFIB). He read a few words, insisting on the importance of the film, which focused on the glow of his own body, had for him. And this is understandable because it seems to have truly given of his person. Of all the shots of the film, his body, his legs, his feet, his eyes have no more secrets for us. It does not merely embody the King by his presence, his looks, his sighs, his words. He is the Sun King. At no time, one probably does. The director who tries usually to a cinema more experimental, has managed to fascinate the viewer by filming this death direct.
Each detail has its importance in this behind closed doors, with only the sounds of life disturbs the silence : the fire crack, the friction of massage on the legs of the King, the noise of the boxes, secrets that can be opened and the scrolls that unfold. The music is not intrusive moments and stresses acceptance by the King, who understands that the Great Reaper comes to fetch it.
The way even shoot the director, the closer to the characters, enhances the intimacy of the moment. He wanted the light reminiscent of the paintings of the painter Raphael, on which he had worked in the context of a Carte Blanche requested by the Centre Pompidou in 2013. The clothes, the fabrics, the drapery of red lit the candle. The faces, their wrinkles, their expressions are at the heart of the camera, and not only reflects the emotion. Because it is a strength of the film that do not deploy a dramaturgy useless. Another director would have been tempted to make a ton and make you cry in the cottages. Not the Albert Serra, and he is grateful. It keeps us at a good distance from our own emotions, halfway between fiction and documentary.
It transcribes wonderfully well this other time, that of the life of the Court. So far, there has seen no nostalgia or the glorification of the kingship. We see the King under the eyes of his subjects, representing everlasting, with the pageantry of the Court, the wigs, the clothes, the rituals. At the mercy of his valet, and his physicians, the King could not eat more, the King rises more, the King is dying. Albert Serra does not seek the empathy of the spectator, he embarks with him on the path to death.
”The death of Louis XIV is a film that is beautiful, intimate and beauty faded, that keeps until the end the senses”
Rarely a movie theater packed to capacity was also silent, in a form of meditation, almost solemn. The director simply offers the viewer the opportunity to attend to this slow agony, to share the last moments of a King and not a man in the common sense of mortals. The director wanted to show that the power of the King has not prevented the decay and degradation of his body. The scenario and the dialogues are directly inspired by two literary works and the historical : the Memoirs of Saint-Simon and the Memoirs of the Marquis de Dangeau.
The death of Louis XIV, is a reflection on the pain and suffering not relieved. Several scenes suggest a realistic rotting progressive of the body, and the stench that emanates from it. Albert Serra has chosen to show a King who does not complain, but very quickly understands that he is going to die, refused the amputation that would have been able to save him from gangrene. He ensures to put in order his affairs of the State and delaying the most possible the last sacraments, continuing to mix church and politics. Until the end, it is suggested that his brain remained active. Perfect in the role of (de)composition, the view-facing camera that launches Jean-Pierre Léaud enjoying her last biscotin is fascinating penetration. Albert Serra, who wanted to touch your finger to the mystery of abstract of absolute power, has pointed to the remarkable performance of its actor, very inspired and sufficiently ambiguous.
Jean-Pierre Léaud is not the only remarkable performer of The death of Louis XIV : the presence and restraint of acting the part of numerous actors bring a lot to the thickness of the film and its subject. As well , Marc Susini, who interprets Blouin the valet of the King sometimes worried, sometimes manipulative. Francis of Assumçao, crossed recently in The Ogres, interpreter Fagon, the physician of the King, that we will remember for a long time. His ignorance, his blindness, his lack of humility and his attempts disastrous, such as the call to the legendary elixir of a charlatan, make it all powerful and yet powerless. In disbelief, the viewer is witnessing this unfortunate spectacle of a parade of doctors and their questions philosophical, quasi-ignorant and surreal.
We would have liked a brief reminder on the screen evokes the dates of these three weeks of agony of August, 1715, because it is not all to the fact of this event. We can also blame the developer to make abstraction of what is going on in the Kingdom of France at this time. Some business courses are certainly referred to, and we can see the Chancellor and an architect in the King’s chamber, but the director says that this was not the subject matter of his film. The death of Louis XIV turns out to be a beautiful film, intimate and a beauty of old-fashioned, which transports the viewer fascinated in another space-time, and manages to maintain it until the end of its senses.
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