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“I’d have liked to have done something a bit crazier”

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Albert Serra • Director

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- Screening out of competition at Seville, Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra presents his latest film, Last Days of Louis XIV, a chamber piece about the final days of the despotic French king

Albert Serra  • Director
(© Lorenzo Pascasio)

Drawn to Seville by the mounting sense of anticipation surrounding the 13th European Film Festival, Albert Serra chose the Andalusian capital to unveil his latest feature, Last Days of Louis XIV [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Albert Serra
film profile
]
. A co-production between France, Spain and Portugal, filmed in France on a single set, the film revolves around the bedridden and dying King, portrayed by the legendary Jean Pierre Léaud.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa: Last Days of Louis XIV has only just been released in France, although it was shown in Cannes last year. Will it eventually be released in Spain?
Albert Serra:
Yes, on 28 November. It will also be released in the United States, but in March, because the Oscars will eclipse everything until then; the same goes for the United Kingdom. Elsewhere in Europe, it will also be released in Belgium and Switzerland, then in Brazil in January and in Mexico and South Korea sometime after that. It’s sold better than any of my other films, partly thanks to the casting, partly because it’s a more accessible and rounded kind of film — it’s not as crazy as the others.

You seem to have a really solid partnership with Montse Triola, your producer.
Yes, you have to have that, I think — you need solid, stable people behind you, because everything is very complex these days. We’ve worked together in our production company Andergraun Films for years now, out of our tiny office in Barcelona. The budget for this film started off at €370,000, which caused an enormous amount of tension, because the set was very expensive and everything had to be just right. It cost a lot of money to go and research every little detail. Jean Pierre Léaud was paid a ridiculous amount, you wouldn’t believe it if I told you what it was. Later we managed to find some funding in Portugal, and then Catalan television chipped in, but only a very small amount. Things got a bit better after Cannes — but we still had a quarter of the budget that a more commercial Spanish film would have.

But your films aren’t that expensive to make ...
No, that’s right, because people aren’t paid as much as they would be in the mainstream industry. If it wasn’t for that, they would be. And yet the performances that my actors gave took them to Cannes, and that’s not the case for many more commercial films. So, in terms of quality, they are equal if not superior. There’s a lot more respect for creative filmmaking in France than there is in Spain.

Is this the first time that you’ve tackled a real historical figure?
Well, Casanova in Story of my Death [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Albert Serra
festival scope
film profile
]
was real too, although I put quite a bit of Dracula in him, so essentially the whole thing was a fantasy. This time I kept more closely to the true story. To do that, during production you need to be constantly making decisions: either you can give the film a sense of strict historical accuracy — in the gestures, the props, in how people move — or you can place more emphasis on the story, the dialogue and the emotional impact. In this case, we tried to remain as faithful as possible to the true story as historians have described it, while avoiding cliché as much as we could. It wasn’t at all easy.

You did take a few liberties with the character, though.
Compared to the rest of my films, there’s a lot less of me in the main character this time — he’s much more removed from my world. It’s hard to strike the right balance, the right point of historical accuracy; we left out a few of the speeches that the King made before he died, for example. I would have liked to have made it a little crazier, but it was difficult because of the spatial limitations of the set. Any indulgence I might have added would have damaged the believability of the film as a whole. In the last film, I was able to do that, because the premise was open to anything and we had a lot of sets to play with, a lot of different locations.  

(Translated from Spanish)

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