Review: Roi Soleil
by Alfonso Rivera
- Albert Serra continues to explore his fascination with the agony endured by the French monarch after Last Days of Louis XIV, this time with a performance shot in Lisbon
Presented in the Revoluciones Permanentes section last November at the European Film Festival in Seville, after winning the Grand Prix at FIDMarseille, Roi Soleil [+see also:
film profile] – a film that lasts a little over an hour and was directed, edited and produced by Albert Serra – is due to hit Spanish cinemas this Friday, 25 January. Serra has undertaken yet another project focusing on the sumptuous and decadent French monarch, after his previous film, Last Days of Louis XIV [+see also:
interview: Albert Serra
film profile] participated at Cannes in 2016. However, the Catalonian director’s new film is a far cry from his previous feature, consisting of a performance at Graça Brandao Gallery in Lisbon in January 2017, which lasted for seven days straight, and saw an actor in a one-man show act out the death of the French monarch. In fact, the original idea behind his Last Days... film project was to put on an artistic performance at the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
While Serra’s previous acclaimed feature starred Jean Pierre Léaud lay on a bed, playing the not-so-omnipotent historical figure in the face of cruel darkness, this time around, the task has fallen to Lluís Serrat – who previously played Sancho Panza in Honour of the Knights (Quixotic) [+see also:
film profile], also by Serra – who embraces the king’s humiliating agony with similar tools, clothing, wigs and rings. Serra’s first film was a hyper-baroque chamber piece, with the dying man prostrated in his bed, surrounded by subjects, servants and pets, while his second film opts to depict the solitary dying figure surrounded by an aseptic, modern and minimalist void, next to a platter of food doused in a red light that gives the whole thing an air of something hellish, bleeding and nocturnal.
The first half of Roi Soleil features no music or noise, only silence marked by the agonised sighs of a poor fatally-wounded animal. The king groans, screams and mutters to himself as he wanders around a room in entire anachronistic dissonance with his clothing. Time does not seem to exist in this show, nor does intimacy, as Artur Tort's (Story of My Death [+see also:
interview: Albert Serra
film profile]) camera shamelessly approaches the man’s face, partially obscured by his long hair, in the last moments of his life, but nevertheless still obsessing over his appearance, in a show of coquetry worthy of a pedigree Pekingese at Crufts.
Serra’s second agonising French king is much more pathetic, ridiculous and animal-like in comparison to the one played by Léaud. Serrat drags him about the stage like a beached whale in a sandpit, like a bear overcome by pain, that just can’t stop eating. The second half of the film welcomes a few additional characters, which ultimately rids the audience of any sense of intimacy with the dying man, who is finally defeated by death, unveiling the complexities of a show in which Serra is even more mischievous, playful and iconoclastic than in Last Days of Louis XIV.
(Translated from Spanish)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.