New DVD Review: Rossellini’s The Taking of Power of Louis XIV, Part I
The number of truly political films – films that examine politics as politics and not as a phenomenon of economics, culture or religion (i.e., examining politics as anything but politics) – are actually very rare. One of the few that does is the newly released DVD version of Rossellini’s The Taking of Power of Louis XIV, originally create for French television in 1967.
Part of the interesting features of this film is that it is a film that examines a monarchy without the sentimentality or romanticization of the vast majority of historical films about past statesmen. That is, past statesmen all saw themselves as politicians trying to solve concrete political problems. But most historical films don’t take the politics of their statesmen seriously, instead tending to focus on non-political matters like the statesman’s psychology, sexuality, love affairs, personality quirks, religious beliefs – i.e. things above politics, things below politics, but not politics.
Rossellini’s taking politics seriously leads to the movie more closely resembling a Renaissance history play than anything else, particularly one of the “accession of the young prince” dramas like Shakespeare’s Henry V.