Eschewing conventional storytelling techniques in an attempt to explore the psyche of its regal protagonist, Stella Cadente feels more like a performance art piece than a period biopic, positioning itself within a surreal labyrinth rich in lurid imagery that's totally disorientating. From a jewel encrusted tortoise crawling into the frame, to the sight of a man engaging in carnal relations with a melon, Miñarro's extravagant tale evolves into a sensory trip back through time that's hard to dislodge from your subconscious. Whilst this salacious bravura and opulent disregard for conventional storytelling is a welcome contrast to some of the dreary and uninspiring historical epics we've seen, the wilfully obnoxious approach employed by Miñarro can, at times become overbearing.
Comparisons could be made with Albert Serra's farcical Story of My Death, which explored the transition from enlightenment to the passions and frivolity of romanticism. However, whilst Serra's films plunge into the darkest depths of depravity, Stella Cadente is a much more carefree excursion in the annals of history. Sadly the films crisp digital camera work makes it hard to immerse yourself entirely within the narrative, with this inability to suspend your disbelief making events feel more like a staged play than a hallucinatory representation of the past. Miñarro's idiosyncratic vision of a despondent monarchy may fail to ultimately coalesce, but it's certainly a unique and perplexing experience to savour.
Patrick Gamble | @PatrickJGamble