The Death of Louis XIV
Perhaps an exercise intended for only the most patient cinephiles, I grew to admire Albert Serra’s glacially-paced and immaculately-composed The Death of Louis XIV. How much you appreciate the film will very likely coincide with how funny you find the picture’s morbidly dry humor. The film depicts Louis XIV (Jean-Pierre Léaud, the glimmer of his 400 Blows days but a distant memory) on his deathbed, bedridden from gangrene as doctors prod at his increasingly blackened foot, completely baffled by what to do. His doctors ornate the Sun King’s lavish bedside, fixated on carrying on with rudimentary treatments and look upon the dying king pitifully.
Beautifully shot, the film looks like a Rembrandt painting come to life. Serra’s sly subversion of taking the museum images that we revere and exposing the human errs that is often forgotten within the passage of time is a stroke of genius. And the casting of Léaud in what’s an idle performance is given notable heft for the baggage that he brings. While the picture may be punishing for its sedated pace, not to mention the inherent cynicism that Serra would appear to have for humanity, I found its humor and rhythmic compositions to be absolutely transfixing. The recurring sound of a ticking clock can be heard in the film’s soundscape as Léaud biodegrades. Despite the beauty of Rembrandt’s paintings, death is indeed not as serene and peaceful as they allege.