Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Story of my Death – review

Director: Albert Serra

Release date: 2013

Contains spoilers

The 18th Century libertine Giacomo Casanova is synonymous with the lover and yet such earthy pursuits seem to be almost missing (almost but not quite) in Albert Serra’s film, which features Vicenç Altaió as the Venetian adventurer and author.

Rather with Història de la Meva Mor we get what is a long, ponderous film that is, very much, born of the arthouse. The title is a take on the actual Casanova’s book the Story of my Life.

amusement from bodily functions
The first part of the film concentrates on Casanova as he rattles around a mansion, amusing himself with his servant Pompeu (Lluís Serrat). With a delivery that might be said to be lackadaisical, Altaió’s performance is good but he is never asked to engage or challenge the audience. Casanova amuses himself with bodily functions – finding bowel movements especially amusing. We, as the audience, are almost duped into a trance like stupor that causes us to less engage and more become wrapped in the unfolding production.

sitting with Dracula
Eventually Casanova and Pompeu relocate to the Carpathians, staying with a farmer and his three daughters. Amidst images of the skinning of a slaughtered cow a second major character enters the stage – Dracula (Eliseu Huertas). The two do not meet and Dracula’s seduction of the three (it would have to be three, wouldn’t it) women is almost as languid as the rest of the film. We do get a hint of blood drinking within the dank darkness of the film and it is here that we are badly let down.

Eliseu Huertas as Dracula
Certain shots within the film – mainly candlelight moments – are beautiful but the majority of night shots are murky, not quite ruined by the dark and lack of lighting but nearly so. If one believes that the presence of Dracula would add a plot to the proceedings they’d be sorely mistaken. Dracula is a symbol – perhaps the haunting spectre of Casanova’s impending death. Dressed in a way reminiscent of an Eastern Orthodox priest, the vampire displays more passion than the infamous libertine – but these are distilled into two impassioned but brief screams into the night. It has also been suggested that the two characters represent the clash between 18th century enlightenment and 19th century romanticism – if so, it has been envisioned as less a crash and more a trudge.

spreading the disease
Lore wise we get nothing – bar the fact that sunlight is not an issue and he drinks blood. We are only told that he is Dracula in the credits. Score wise, I must admit I am befuddled. I can see a point but this slow, trudging film isn’t for me and will probably not be watched again. I can only really say 4 out of 10, with a caveat that others may find it astounding.

The imdb page is here.

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