dir. Albert Serra, Spain, Portugal 2018, 61’
Albert Serra realizes the long-abandoned idea of placing the body of Louis XIV suffering from gangrene in the Paris Pompidou Center. It was Jean-Pierre Léaud himself who was to become the Sun King in the Death of Louis XIV, the film by Serra from 2016. In the meantime, it is Lluís Serrat who has been dressed in period costume. His performance was recorded by Serra in 2017 in the classic white cube of Lisbon's Graça Brandão Gallery, illuminated by red neon lights.
Over a decade earlier, the director had come across Serrat, a 20-year-old builder, in one of the bars of his home town of Banyoles. He ate very slowly, recalls Serra, very calmly, with beautiful gestures, at the mercy of the concentration befitting those who love to eat. Serrat became an iconic figure for the Catalan's producer's film productions, playing in all his films and winning the title of Sanchini. He is a flower, repeats Serra, unsullied! Serrat is an 'actor' with a unique appearance - corpulent, captivating with innocent charm, a man of few words, sincere, he fills the frame with his presence, he is just there. Serra is not interested in the intricacies of the plot and the characteristics of the characters, or referencing history or literature in his films. However, Serra pays a lot of attention to the visual aspects of the existence of the body on the screen. The way the body fits into the landscape, the way the body fits into the frame of the composition, the way it fulfills its duties.
It is no different in Roi Soleil. Dressed in an embroidered straitjacket, crawling on the floor, clinging to the walls, the body of the suffering king finds its own size and weight, the right distillation. Louis's agony sometimes entertains, sometimes delights. There's no room for fear here. In the cleaned gallery space, Serrat's body - in different poses and seen from different angles - becomes one of the objects - next to a platter with sweets that the king snacks on, a pitcher with water that he drinks, slurping, through a rubber tube, mirrors in which he looks at himself. Is Serrat moaning because he dies as a king, or because he is dying in a straitjacket, or his tights are too tight or the huge big wig is making his head mercilessly too hot? Somewhere between history and a dream, says Serra about his production. However, the authenticity of the performance is broken by the appearance of visitors to the gallery. Serrat freezes embarrassed. He bids farewell to applause. A beautiful death!
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