© Danny Willems

TV play Bovary: an oppressive love story

From book to theatre and from there to the screen: this spring, Emma Bovary’s story is catapulted from the 19th century into 2021. Gustave Flaubert’s 1856 novel, which sent shockwaves through France at the time, has become an intense play about desire and adultery, about impossible love and the patriarchy, about life and death, in the hands of directors Carme Portaceli and Michael De Cock. Jaco Van Dormael adapted their creation into a film version. Watch it for free via VRTnu.be!
Flaubert’s debut novel didn’t just shock the French bourgeoisie – it even led to a lawsuit – the story of an adulterous doctor’s wife exploded onto the world literature scene like dynamite. The way the French writer described his heroine’s downfall, with plenty of stylistic finesse and psychological depth, heralded the beginning of the modern novel. 
Emma Bovary’s rebellious battle is a theme close to Catalan director Carme Portaceli’s heart. Portaceli has been striving to give women more visibility her entire career long. She sees Emma Bovary as an activist, a woman who refuses to settle within the boundaries imposed upon her by society. Together with KVS director Michael De Cock, Portaceli has made Bovary into a story about the quest for happiness. The performance, headed up by Maaike Neuville and Koen De Sutter, should have premiered at the theatre in February. The forced cancellation inspired the makers to find alternative ways to showcase the piece. They found one in Jaco Van Dormael’s filmed version.
Film director Jaco Van Dormael, known for films including Toto le Héros and Le Tout Nouveau Testament, aimed his cameras at De Cock and Portaceli’s stage creation. He cleverly uses the empty auditorium to zoom in on the stage and come closer to the characters. His tv play Bovary was broadcasted on Canvas on 30 April and is now available at vrtnu.be.