A monument of French classical tragedy, Phèdre fascinates and troubles in equal measures. In his direction of Racine's masterpiece, Patrice Chéreau lets us hear the pleasure of the text as well as Phèdre's sensitive world.
Up until then, everything seemed to have driven Patrice Chéreau away from Racine's theatre. When he was 30, he'd even sworn he would never direct a French classic in Alexandrines. Afraid of this “fake, frightening music,” which he'd known since secondary school, and to which he much preferred Shakespeare's “savagery.” In 1995, after rehearsals for Bernard-Marie Koltès's In the Solitude of Cotton Fields, costume designer Moidele Bickel enigmatically told him: “Now it's Racine you must direct. And in the same way!” Intrigued, Chéreau decided to re-read Phèdre, and felt the need to make us hear Racine's words to show us a fully human and carnal Phèdre, devastated by the contradictions of desire.
Unlike other directors, who revelled in Racine's verse (like Antoine Vitez in 1975), Patrice Chéreau worked on meaning and on the tragedy itself. He sought to bring Phèdre's voice to an audience who'd never heard it. To those who regretted a few cuts in Racine's original text, Chéreau responded with his desire to “tell, as best I could, a story about human beings.”
With Dominique Blanc (Phèdre), Éric Ruf (Hippolyte), Pascal Greggory (Thésée), Michel Duchaussoy (Théramène), Christiane Cohendy (Oenone), Marina Hands (Aricie), Nathalie Bécue (Panope), Agnès Sourdillon (Ismène)
Direction Patrice Chéreau
Text Jean Racine
Artistic collaboration Philippe Calvario
Direction assistants Dominique Furgé, Valérie Nègre
Stage design Richard Peduzzi
Lights Dominique Brugière
Costumes Moidele Bickel
Direction Stéphane Metge
Music Éric Neveux
Montage Hélène Viardet
Co-production ARTE France, Azor Films, Ina, Love Streams, Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe, RuhrTriennale
Film recorded in April 2003 at Odéon-Théâtre de l'Europe (Ateliers Berthier)