For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.

Absolute Power Absolutely Contradicted: “The Taking of Power by Louis XIV”

For Roberto Rossellini, miracles and revolutions could be embodied in a gesture, an embrace, a sudden discovery. Throughout The Taking of Power by Louis XIV, the Italian filmmaker’s 1966 reconstruction of the 17th-century French regent’s ascension to Sun King supremacy, power plays are so de-dramatized that a major plot point—the arrest of Fouquet, Louis’ main rival—can be glimpsed from the window of a tower, dwarfed amid the statuary and gardens of the royal palace. It’s a world where action has been turned into ritual, and opulent surfaces oppress and stifle. “Minds are governed more by appearances than by the true nature of things”; the pose of society must be maintained. The King learns to enslave the aristocracy by seizing control of the pose, yet Rossellini brilliantly undercuts his control in the film’s magnificent final sequence, a long take in which, alone and shorn of his wigs and finery, Louis sees his own isolation in La Rochefoucauld’s maxim: “Neither the sun nor death can be gazed upon fixedly.” Absolute power absolutely contradicted—three minutes that challenge everything that preceded them. A chilling sequence, and, as human doubt for the first time intrudes upon the pose, a paradoxically hopeful one.

Please to add a new comment.

Latest News