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Those in London the first week of February can witness the Toneelgroep Amsterdam theater company’s stage adaptation of three films by Michelangelo Antonioni.

From the Barbican Theater’s website:

Love affairs, isolation, heartache. Internationally renowned theatre director Ivo van Hove leads his powerful ensemble in an exploration of award-winning, Italian film director Michelangelo Antonioni’s groundbreaking 1960s film trilogy (L’Avventura, La Notte, L’Eclisse), in this epic adaptation for the stage.

Simultaneously performed, filmed and projected onto a giant screen, the show reinvents Antonioni’s portraits of bourgeois relationships in public and private settings. Multiple perspectives provide an intimate and visceral insight into the lives of the key characters depicted in the films as they wrestle with their emotions, indulge their passions and search for the truth.

In The Guardian, Maxie Szalwinska saw the production and talked with director Ivo van Hove.

The film L’Avventura, by contrast, largely takes place on an eerie, windswept and lava-encrusted island near Sicily. “Antonioni’s space,” wrote the film critic Pauline Kael, “is a vacuum in which people are aimlessly moving.” Van Hove thinks the film “positions people so they are very small – lost in their environment. So I had to think about how to show the alienation between women and men in an urban setting.”

He does this by having multiple cameras on stage, which film his characters acting against a vast blue screen. Close-up footage of their faces is then superimposed on vistas that appear on a giant screen above the stage: the empty footbridges of the Minneapolis Skyway system, for example. So the audience gets to watch two things simultaneously: actors performing a scene together (looking lonely and lost on a spacious stage), while, up above, they’re transported to somewhere else entirely.

The setup – both distant and in your face – requires extremely economical performances. “They cannot lie because the camera is ruthless,” says Van Hove. “Video and microphones are the tools of today. Why not use them? In the times of the Greek tragedies, they used masks – which were like huge close-ups of an emotion. But I never use cinematic methods in a purely aesthetic way. I try to make it dramaturgically necessary.”

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