Dracula meets Casanova in Story of My Death
by Boyd van Hoeij
- Golden Leopard-winner film is Albert Serra’s latest rarefied arthouse oddity
Catalan arthouse director Albert Serra’ latest film, Story of My Death [+see also:
interview: Albert Serra
film profile], not only played in competition at the Locarno Film Festival, which came to a close this weekend, but actually walked away with the Golden Leopard, the event’s top prize. The jury, headed by arthouse giant and slow-cinema auteur Lav Diaz from the Philippines, clearly found in Serra’s latest something they could appreciate.
Story of My Death (Historia de la meva mort) is a period piece that starts in Switzerland at a night-time banquet, where it introduces the figure of Casanova (Catalan actor Vincenc Altaio), who’s already approaching middle age.
Already in the first couple of scenes, some things seem new or unusual in the Serra universe. For the first time, there’s something resembling a story or plot, there is dialogue that’s been carefully written rather than improvised and is not only in colour — unlike his most famous work, the Cannes-selected Birdsong, which was in black-and-white — but there’s a conscious effort to coordinate colours and props into tableaux resembling paintings of the period.
The dialogues are plentiful and their themes slowly but surely crystallize — though Serra has an unexpected twist in story when, quite late into the proceedings, Dracula (Eliseu Huertas) shows up and the two men both interested in ravishing women sit down, outside and in bright daylight, and have a chat.
Clearly, Serra is working with obvious symbols again (though Dracula is only identified as such in the end credits), though rather than that being mainly a story of symbols, the presence of dialogue and the period setting also suggest something of an actual story.
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