The Death of Louis XIV
(La mort de Louis XIV)
Jean-Pierre Léaud, Patrick d’Assumçao, Marc Susini,
King Louis XIV is dying, but his doctors are unclear as to the cause. He is on bed rest, ordered not to see his beloved dogs; visitors must come to him to be greeted as standing proves to be too difficult, and eating is an applauded act, as any nourishment for His Majesty is a triumph. In Albert Serra’s masterful The Death of Louis XIV, we are a guest in the bedchamber of King Louis (Jean-Pierre Léaud), where, among his loyal servants, all energy and concern is devoted to the king’s wellbeing and hoped-for recovery. Serra draws from literary references for historical accuracy; the room is candlelit and the scenes hover between the somber reality of death and the humor that lies in the details. With groans, exhales, and simple flicks of the wrist, Léaud subtly commands the room from his bed, adorned in lavish cloaks and even more lavish wigs. The film observes royalty with painstaking attention, making arduous traditions seem antiquated but necessary. His Majesty is slowly dying and we are a part of the final act, but unlike all those inferior to him, this is a king’s death, where the water must be served only from the finest crystal glasses.