Patrice Chereau, the famed film and theatre director, has passed away at the age of 68. The director, whose rebellious, sexually and politically charged productions with the Bavarian opera house managed to earn him both scorn and praise in the late XX century, began as a sort of outcast in the French theatre.

His work later assumed a much more socially charged tone, particularly in his production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, set against the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution. To more conservative minds, the opera in this iteration rang like nothing short of a Marxist sabotage. In fact, replacing the traditional Alpine setting with a treatise on the corrupting effect of power, set during the Industrial Revolution, seems like a sign of the times from a current perspective.

The production certainly left its mark on history and it was not without its supporters. It was hailed by some as a turning point in the history of opera. Chereau’s version later got turned into a 10-part television series. According to supporters of the highly controversial director, his production explored the reality of Wagner.

Chereau’s films, no less than his theatrical work, also managed to spark a lot of controversy. The director paid equal attention to any medium he worked in. “For me they are exactly the same — telling stories with actors,” he once told the journalist Stephen Moss, via Telegraph. After La Reine Margot (1994), which won the main jury prize at Cannes, he was had plenty of offers to direct more blood-drenched tales of 16th-century French life (“I even had an offer from the UK to do a film about Guy Fawkes”), but always refused: “It’s useless to repeat something you already did,” he said.

Chereau lived with actor Pascal Greggory for many years, but he did not believe that his homosexuality influenced his work in any significant way. “Everywhere love stories are the same,” he said. “The game of desire, and how you live with desire, are the same.”