A film driven and defined by thoughts - by its characters' thoughts: unspoken or unconsidered, elusive, elliptical, and by my own: wandering. The distant beauty of Albert Serra's latest provocation, as rigorous as it is frivolous, is restless and amorphous, yet mired in stagnancy. It is as every other element of this film, a compendium of semi- and fully-formed notions from its creator, who edited Story of My Death down from a reputed 400 hours of footage. He displays a cool obsession - itself an oxymoron - with contradiction, in matters formal and cerebral both, and if his loyalty to applying this concept to every strand in his film's structure is laudable, it also renders the film little more than a filmed thesis. As such, it's of superlative quality, though. Serra juxtaposes sentimental passion with carnal passion, carnality with rationality, interiors (be it of a luxurious castle, of a person's mind - their thoughts, ever diverting the film down unexpected routes - of a living woman, or of a dead animal) with exteriors (the vast sub-Carpathain landscapes, the frame of a body, attired in nothing more than limp, lifeless cloth), wealth with poverty, riches with shit, calm contemplation with relative chaos... Relative indeed, since Serra's penchant for utter calm pervades, and it's as likely to draw your senses to the exquisite details he has designed as it is to bore you stiff, particularly as the quality of the production arguably doesn't always live up to one's standards. Yet this too could be another of Serra's contradictions: sumptuousness against ugliness, a film that courts attention against one that repels it. And, of course, Casanova vs. Dracula. That's the provocation he sets against the haughtiness he instills in every line, and in every frame. And I also experienced my own contradictions: respecting the film and rejecting it, being glad for its breadth of ideas and frustrated for the lack of depth in them, and, plainly, understanding it, and not having a fucking clue what it's about. And not caring either.