Following his radical (re-)interpretations of Cervantes' Don Quixote (Honor de Cavalleria) and the Biblical tale of the Three Kings (Birdsong), celebrated Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra imagines an encounter between two other legendary figures of world literature — Casanova and Count Dracula — in this deliciously eccentric and exquisitely detailed riff on the historical costume drama.
Story of My Death
Award-winning Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra established himself as one of the most original and iconoclastic voices in contemporary cinema with his first two features Honor de Cavalleria (a radical, sun-soaked adaptation of Don Quixote) and Birdsong (a minimalist take on the Biblical tale of the Three Kings, shot in ashen black and white). In his highly anticipated latest feature, the incomparable auteur stages an encounter between two other legendary characters of world literature — Casanova and Count Dracula — to chart the collision between the eighteenth century of Enlightenment, rationalism and libertine sensuality and a nineteenth century founded upon Romanticism, obscurantism and violence.
Riffing on the title of Casanova's autobiography, Story of My Life (generally regarded as one of the most important treatises on eighteenth-century customs), História de la meva mort offers up a deliciously debauched tale as the famous womanizer — known for his expansive intellect and curiosity as much as his erotic exploits — travels with his sensitive servant to an idylic village in southern Carpathia, where his destiny intersects with a mysterious, bearded character. Radically, if quietly, transcending the costume-drama genre, História subverts staidness with its wit, stellar performances and a diffused naturalism.
Drawing upon literary and art-historical
References — the mise en scène variously
recalls Dutch baroque still-life master
Claesz, with its glimmering crystal ware and
glazed candied fruit, and the pink powdery
rococo of Fragonard and Boucher — História
oozes with indelible details, from a taxidermied
goose to the brocade fabrics and
wallpaper to the abundance of strewn, halfeaten
pomegranates ("Every seed is like
an idea," says Casanova). Recalling such
great, eccentric period pieces as Luchino
Visconti's Ludwig and Manoel de Oliveira's
Francisca or Doomed Love with a drop of de
trop, Serra's História is a film to be returned
to for years to come, as its enigmas continue
to reveal themselves over time.