Crackling with intensity, this triumphant spectacle directed by Ivo van Hove depicts the disintegration of a society, undone through a venomous alliance, the drama finding unsettling parallels today.
Luchino Visconti’s screenplay is the springboard for a ceaselessly creative production, which follows a family of German industrialists – the corrupt and debauched Essenbeck clan. With echoes of Greek and Shakespearean tragedy, their deepening collusion with the nascent Nazi regime puts them on a perilous path to destruction.
Invited to direct the illustrious troupe of Comédie-Française for the first time, Van Hove and his long-time collaborator Jan Versweyveld populate the Barbican stage with a company of 30 actors and technicians. Archival footage and live recordings projected onto a screen form a counterpoint to the immense and involving action, the roving camera at times turned on the audience.
The Damned (Les Damnés) is performed in French with English surtitles.