When Casanova Meets Dracula
Returning to the art film sphere for the first time since 2008’s El cant dels ocells, the pride of Catalonia Albert Serra presents his most mature work to date, an imagining of life at the turn of the 18th century, when rationalism gives way to Romanticism, as told through the journey of the notorious libertine Casanova (Catalan contemporary art curator Vincenç Altaió) and his valet (Lluís Serrat, also known as Sancho, and never better). Simply put, they live life (“Story of My Life” being Casanova’s memoirs), encountering artists and women galore – beginning at a French chateau and eventually traveling to the Carpathians, where they end up in the presence of another famous figure of the period, Dracula (Eliseu Huertas, the most originally depicted Vlad the Impaler in film history).
Working for the first time with some scripted dialogue, and colliding it with his usual method of free improvisation with non-actors, Serra has concocted a truly esoteric and unique work, something contemporary, yet totally free of constraints of time and space. The trappings might be historical and mythical, but his playground is cinematic language; the editing, acting, and photography, all of which are sui generis, contribute to a grand work of art that, as in an alchemic concoction, begins by appearing like waste, but eventually dazzles like solid gold. Bringing to mind filmmakers such as Pasolini, Garrel and Straub, Historia de la meva mort is a constantly surprising film of great beauty, mixing the sacred and the profane, where not a single shot or cut is out of place.