Story of My Death (2013) | Bfi Player

April 11th, 2023
Author: Meredith Taylor

Dir: Albert Serra | Cast: Viçenç Altaió, Eliseu Huertas, Lluis Serrat, Montse Triola | 148min Catalan Drama

Purportedly a metaphor for the journey from Enlightenment to Romanticism, Albert Serra’s Golden Leopard winner is a deliciously louche and languorous drama that plays on the title of Giacomo Casanova’s autobiography “Histoire de Ma Vie”.

Distilled from 400 hours of freewheeling footage to a shimmering strand of candlelit and moonlit reverie, it is based on an imagined meeting between Casanova and Dracula that takes place in 18th-century Switzerland and Romania.

Sensitively re-creating the leisurely pace of the era, the film opens with an al fresco supper between paramours. Scenes in Casanova’s boudoir follow where the raffish Catalan Marquis (Viçenç Altaió) gives decadent rein to his appetite for salacious often philosophical badinage with his newly-acquired manservant, Pompeu (Lluis Serrat), while grazing on grapes and completing his ablutions. Embarking on a pastoral journey that will lead beyond the Carpathian mountains to Transylvania, he is joined by said manservant and an entourage of submissive female acolytes.

Altaió portrays Casanova as gently playful rather than predatory which is possibly how he manages to prolong his prodigious sexual appetite; he comes across as naughtily risqué rather than oppressively lecherous: an irresistible combination that evokes impish titillation rather than gaucheness reflecting the cultured gentility of the age of Enlightenment.

The tone slips sinuously into Gothic Horror in the  Transylvanian segment where we meet the raven-haired, elegantly-coiffed Count  (Eliseu Huertas) – a psycopath of a different colour, presenting himself as a gift-horse to the unsuspecting females in the travelling group, later devouring them with an horrendous nod to 19th century Imperialism. Casanova’s saucy superficiality is stretched to the limit as he suffers a Barry Lyndon style downturn in his fortunes and the backlash of violent vampires as the narrative down-spirals into valium-enfused blood-letting.

This inventive twist on a classic legend with its inspired performance from Viçenç Altaió is sumptuously filmed with exquisite attention to period detail. The luminescent candlelit set-pieces confirm Albert Serra as a master of ‘slow cinema’ See this when you have time to savour its treasures. MT

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