MAMI Day 6: Dinesh Raheja reviews The Death Of Louis X1V & The Greasy Strangler

Speed News Desk | First published: 28 October 2016, 18:05 IST
Death of King Louis: Mumbai Film Festival Day 6
Death of King Louis: Mumbai Film Festival Day 6 (Movie Still)

October 26, 2016

I saw a film on death which was painfully slow but worthwhile and a pitch-black comedy on sex and murder that was GROSS - yes I have spelt it in capitals and yet I feel haven't underlined its intentional 'crassiness' enough. Fortunately, I took a masala dosa break in between (nothing like South Indian fare when you are eating out every day).

Pick Of The Day: The Death Of Louis X1V

The Death of Louis XIV underlines the universal truth of life: After the game of chess is over, the king and the pawn go into the same box. Death is a great leveller ... it doesn't spare even emperors. This claustrophobic film is set entirely (!) within the royal chambers of a dying eighteenth century French emperor Louis IV ... the sun makes barely an appearance and to think he was called the Sun King!

The film dwells on the deteriorating health of the bed-ridden monarch (marvellously played by Jean Pierre Leaud even though he is largely-prostrate). The only semblance of colour is provided by monarch's robes, the red curtains, the ornate upholstery and the king's oversized white wig. The lighting is dim and depressing - with candles being the only source of light -- and the mood is sombre. But my attention was kept alive by the interplay between the king and his devoted attendants as they struggle to reach a diagnosis and try out various doctors and options in the stubborn hope of a miracle.

The film is told in tight close-ups of the king and his attendants that add to the mood. Both the setting and movements is minimalist. The sound design of the film draws attention to each dying groan as well as the ominous silences that pervade the proceedings.

The wry humour in this film comes from unexpected quarters - for instance the king, a renowned aesthete, insists on a crystal glass to drink water from even when in the throes of pain. Then there is an amusing subplot to kill the "charlatan" doctor from Marseilles whose elixir made of bull sperm and frog fat supposedly hastened the king's death.