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giovanni's room

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director eline arbo
from james baldwin
duration n.t.b.
premiere 19 Jan 2025

“I am standing by the window of a large house in the south of France as night falls, the night that will carry me into the most terrible morning of my life.”

This is how the story of David, an American in France who reminisces about his time in Paris opens. It is the city of expats, liaisons, and violence. Here, David awaits the return of his fiancée Hella. But when he meets Giovanni, a charismatic Italian bartender, the two men become entangled in an intense affair. After three months, David's fiancée returns and he is forced to make a choice.

Baldwin tells the story of a doomed relationship, a story that explores the conflict between desire, conventional morality, and sexual identity. With his sharp, probing imagination, Baldwin delves into the mystery of love. He paints a picture of the social alienation that is a consequence of a society unable to cope with a different view on sexuality. It creates a deeply moving story of death and passion, that reveals the complexity of the human heart.




'With Giovanni's Room, I am getting the chance to adapt one of my favourite books for the stage. It brims with poetic, poignant images about what it is like to be in search of who you really want to be.

The book challenges you to contest pigeonholing. Baldwin portrays the internalised homophobia of the main character, experiencing the societal pressure to be just one 'thing'.

At the same time, it deals with the polarisation of artisthood. Baldwin was advised by his publisher and agent Knopf not to publish the book, fearing that a novel with a white protagonist would alienate him from the black community. Baldwin ignored this advice and went on to publish the book with a smaller publisher, convinced that the fight for equality was all one single battle.

I find it very inspiring how Baldwin dared to fight for empathy and equality in a radical way. That is a very important and radical counter-force.'




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