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disgrace

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director luk perceval
from j.m. coetzee
duration 1:55
premiere 04 Dec 2011


The Booker Prize-winning novel Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee is a parable about modern South Africa. It is directed by the internationally acclaimed Luk Perceval, who portraits the struggle of a man in a country in transition.


David Lurie (52) is a lecturer who becomes caught up in a scandal following a relationship with one of his students at Cape Town Technical University. He is called before a disciplinary committee and after admitting what has happened, is dismissed from his post. He decides to stay with his daughter Lucy, who runs a farm out in the South African country. One day, David and Lucy are brutally attacked by a group of black people. She is raped, but decides not to report this to the police. He cannot understand her decision and is shocked when she refuses to have an abortion.

While David still seems to be living in the old South Africa and thinks he can exercise his rights and privileges, Lucy is a child of the new South Africa. She knows that she has to come to terms with the harsh reality of the daily struggle for survival. She is prepared to marry her black neighbour Petrus and give up a portion of her land in exchange for his protection. Having left behind his role as an academic, David is now also forced to give up his role as father. He learns to see himself for what he really is – no longer the fascinating intellectual who flirts with young women, but an old man who lovingly helps the dogs in the local dogs home by putting them out of their misery.


For Luk Perceval and Josse de Pauw – who adapted the play for stage – Disgrace is the portrait of a man who is forced to leave all his certainties behind him in a land which he no longer recognizes as his own. David Lurie is a middle class, white, highly educated literary theorist, who has never questioned the privileges he has enjoyed under Apartheid in South Africa. A relationship with a student and the punishment that is imposed on him send him into an uncontrollable spiral of events which he can no longer control. He is forced to swap his privileged position in society for that of an outsider, a white man living in the East Cape which has been reclaimed by black people.

Disgrace is about the thin line that separates civilization and anarchy, about the speed with which Westernized humans can find themselves in a state of uncertainty, fighting for their very survival. The audience is invited to resolve the moral dilemmas that unfurl before them, experience the complexity of certain feelings, and see how deeply anchored some opinions and prejudices can be. Disgrace is not only an apology for a man who has been cut adrift, but also a verdict on a complacent society.

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