Jonathan Glazer and Mica Levi team up for ‘dancing plague’ film

Strasbourg 1518 pairs the Under the Skin director and composer with an ensemble of world-class dancers.


Charles Bramesco


As the history books would have us believe it, once upon a time in the town of Strasbourg, the locals succumbed to an unusual strain of mania. A so-called ‘dancing plague’ hit the border between France and Germany in 1518, inciting villagers to get their groove on for such staggering lengths of time, and with such all-consuming intensity, that scores are reported to have perished.

This being so long ago, many elements of the record remain fuzzy. (Experts disagree over the origin of this odd affliction, the number of casualties has been estimated as anywhere from 50 to 400, and some authorities doubt that anyone even died from dancing at all.) But that’s of no matter to Jonathan Glazer, who has oriented his latest short film around the symbolic significance of this strange 16th-century footnote.

A press release tied to the BBC’s Culture in Quarantine initiative announced today that Glazer will bring his new project Strasbourg 1518 to BBC Two on 20 July, a “collaboration in isolation” that sees the music video veteran teaming with the elite dance company Sadler’s Wells. Filmed during the lockdown, the presumptive dance sequences will be soundtracked by Mica Levi, composer of the haunting score for Glazer’s most recent feature Under the Skin.

The resonance of that far-flung corner of history to our present moment is clear; everyone feels a little stir-crazy right now, trapped in our flats with no end in sight, and dancing may be the only reliable way to get the ya-yas out. How different is the constant low-grade craziness of our pandemic-driven self-containment from the viral fever that descended on Alsace all those years ago, really?

This comes hot on the heels of Glazer’s last short-form visit to BBC Two, the eerie and conceptual vision of terror The Fall, which premiered last October. His games with concentric squares and frames-within-frames suggested a phase of formal experimentation, a restless streak that we may safely expect to breathe jittery life into Strasbourg 1518.

Strasbourg 1518 will premiere on BBC Two on 20 July at 10pm GMT. 

Published 8 Jul 2020

Tags: Jonathan Glazer Mica Levi

Suggested For You

At last, everyone can see Jonathan Glazer’s eerie new short

By Charles Bramesco

Masked figures perform a ritual most sinister in the six-minute miniature.

A24 is looking to turn Under the Skin into a TV series

By Charles Bramesco

A bidding war could bring Scarlett Johansson’s homicidal alien to the small screen.

Does Sexy Beast contain cinema’s best description of love?

By Sophie Monks Kaufman

Jonathan Glazer’s 2000 film mixes in a sweet, lilting romance with all the violence and swearing.

Little White Lies Logo

About Little White Lies

Little White Lies was established in 2005 as a bi-monthly print magazine committed to championing great movies and the talented people who make them. Combining cutting-edge design, illustration and journalism, we’ve been described as being “at the vanguard of the independent publishing movement.” Our reviews feature a unique tripartite ranking system that captures the different aspects of the movie-going experience. We believe in Truth & Movies.