In 2015, for his first steps in theater, Arnaud Desplechin directs The Father, after a play of the same name by August Strindberg. Written in the late 19th century, this play denounces the hypocrisy of the patriarchal society of that time and reveals its cause.
The Father features a bourgeois couple, a captain and his wife, who is torn about their daughter’s future. The captain wants her to go study in the city to become a schoolteacher, his wife is opposed to it, in order for her to become an artist.
A. Strindberg portrays a captain who identifies fatherhood to its reproductive function and foresees the dramatic consequences. Facing one of his men accused of abusing a woman’s weakness and getting her pregnant, he accepts the following ancient argument: mater semper certa est, pater est semper incertus. Chocked by this argument that leaves a mother and her child without a father, his wife denounces the injustice of the patriarchal society. If nothing and nobody can tell for certain who a child’s father is, “how can the father have all these rights over the child”?, she protested.
Confronted with a husband who does not want his inalienable rights being questioned, Laura turns her husband’s logic against himself. Even though he thinks that “in marriage, of course, paternity is not in doubt”, she tells him that he doesn’t know if he is Bertha’s father. Being a fine logician, she adds: “how can you know what other people don’t!”. Since that moment, she introduces doubt into her husband’s mind whose mental universe turned into madness. Everybody lies to him and there is no longer any guarantee whether a word is misleading or not. It becomes impossible for him to follow the advice that his doctor reminds him – advice that he believes he holds from Goethe: “a man must take his children on trust”.
The captain’s being collapses. By telling him he may not be his daughter’s father, “long comes someone with a knife” and “makes a cut” of half of himself. For the captain, the meaning of life and the truth to which he adheres vanish. He sees no other choices but to die and kill his daughter. By questioning the notion of father, A. Strindberg reveals behind the figure of patriarchy, that of Saturn who devours his own children because he is told he will be devoured by them. Indeed, The Father opens on the captain’s fantasy to be in a cage, surrounded by women who, as wild beasts, dream of tearing him apart. It closes on an acting out driven by “a morbid fancy” of being an ogre who wants to devour his daughter. “To eat or be eaten!”, that is the other side of patriarchy, according to A. Strindberg.
References from the autor.
 Desplechin A., The Father, 2015. https://www.comedie-francaise.fr/en/events/pere15-16#.
 The Father in Strindberg, J.A. Miss Julie and Other Plays. Translated by M. Robinson, Oxford University Press, 2008.
 Ibid., p. 11.
 Ibid., p. 39.
 Lacan J., The seminar of Jacques Lacan, Book III, The Psychoses, 1955-1956, translated by Russel Grigg.
 Strindberg A., The Father, op. cit., p. 30.
 Ibid., p. 47.
 Ibid., p. 48.
Translation: Manuela Rabesahala
Proofreading: Tracy Hoijer-Favre
Picture : © Art et Marge collectif