With The Death of Louis XIV, Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra continues a series of radical films, from Honour of the Knights (2006) to Story of My Death (2013), characterised by an opulent yet urgent feeling for the philosophical recreation of historic subjects. His iconoclastic approach is pictorially beautiful and humorous. For the first time, and with worldwide success, Serra here works with professional actors: icon Jean-Pierre Léaud as the French Sun King turns the film into a high point of the year.
In the dark rooms of the palace, illuminated by candles in a beautiful Rembrandt-like pallet, a procession of functionaries and helpers pass the bed of the ruler, who is dying of gangrene. He is unmistakably still the most powerful man in a Europe which is setting one foot – painful, rotting foot – into the modern, rational era, while the other is still bogged down in the mud of the Middle Ages. Or vice versa.