The Death of Louis XIV | Chicago Reader
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The Death of Louis XIV

The Death of Louis XIV

As much a lesson in medical history as political history, Spanish director Albert Serra's retelling of the final days of the Sun King relates the monarch's treatment in meticulous and fascinating detail. The film focuses almost exclusively on the dying king's relationship to his doctors (which Serra based on court records), and from their interactions one gains a vivid sense of the superstitions and limited scientific knowledge that determined medical practices in the early 18th century. Reminiscent of the historical dramas that Roberto Rossellini created for television in the 1970s, Serra's movie immerses viewers in the day-to-day life of the period, making narrative a secondary concern. Yet the story never feels aimless, thanks to Serra's skillful parceling of observations and the refined performances of the ensemble cast. At the center of it all is Jean-Pierre Léaud's commanding and achingly vulnerable turn as Louis, which ranks among the actor's best work. In French and Latin with English subtitles.

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