Venus in Fur…a film review by Roz Tarszisz

July 13, 2014 by Roz Tarszisz
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Venus in Fur – a play within a play. Based on David Ives’ Tony Award winning play “Venus in Fur”, this two hander directed by Roman Polanksi opens innocuously enough in a small rundown theatre in Paris.

Thomas (Mathieu Amalric), is casting an actress to play Vanda in his adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s semi-autobiographical 1870 novella, Venus In Fur.

Unsuccessful auditions have left him frustrated and about to leave the empty theatre when who should burst in on him but Vanda – yes an actress with the same name as the character in the play. Crude and vulgar, Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) is the antithesis of what he seeks and he tries to get rid of her. But Vanda is determined and wheedles her way into an audition and grabs his attention from her first line.

They start to read the play together. As Thomas is sucked in, so is the audience. Reality and fantasy blur as they work through the play’s theme of sexual domination and submission.

To spell out the entire plot would be a spoiler. Like many small, local theatrical productions, a magical, and ultimately claustrophobic, world is created with a few props and a simple stage. Shot with one camera, in a single sequence, the mood is intimate.

Both funny and dark, intense and erotic, boundaries dissolve amid themes of sadomasochism and sexual enslavement. The excellent scores underline the screenplay – written by both Ives and Polanski.

Seigneur is stunning as she morphs from trashy to demur to vamp within a few breaths. It is the role of a lifetime and the direction ensures she makes the most of it. Thomas is the perfect foil for her machinations and we become embroiled in them as he does.

Many moviegoers will have different takes on the references to previous Polanski films along with Amalric looking cannily like a young Polanski. Interviews with Seigneur make much of the fact that she is married to Polanksi.   However the director has crafted a film that makes the most of all the talent involved.

It is probably not for everyone but it is brilliantly done.

4.5/5

Rating MA15+ (strong language and sexual references)  96mins

Opens July 17

Language: French with English subtitles

Starring Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric

Directed by Roman Polanksi

Screenplay by David Ives and Roman Polanksi

Music by Alexandre DesplaPhotography by Pawel Edelman

 

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