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The Death of Louis XIV

Directed by Albert Serra

France, 2016

HOME, 19 July 2017

The Death of Louis XIV

A ravishing vision of the royal court.

Who would not want to be the King of France? You are surrounded by luxury. As you lay on a red velvet bed, exquisite food is brought to you on the finest silverware. Servants are around to attend to your every wish. That’s the up-side.

Yet this king is dying as his body – flesh and blood, like Christ’s – rots; and as he loses his faculties, it undermines his capacity for enjoyment. He is not able to swallow, he lacks appetite, his tongue petrifies. Under these conditions the body becomes a betrayer – and even the royal kitchen’s delicate confections lack flavour and relish.

This extraordinary film has an overpowering atmosphere of opulent decadence, the decadence and dissolution arising not from (or not alone from) amoral hedonism or rich brocade and the like, but from corrupt human flesh.

Deleuze remarked once (and in this area he knew whereof he spoke) that ‘the tired person can no longer realize, but the exhausted person can no longer possibilize.’ And that is Louis to a T. He is exhausted. The future does not exist for him. As we look on him he is a primate, a poor mortal thing, as are we all.