wed 03/06/2020

DVD: Venus in Fur | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Venus in Fur

DVD: Venus in Fur

Polanski's play on sex and power in this adaptation of an erotic-classic

Mind-games, power and politics in Polanski's sexually charged film

Action film fans should stay away from this Roman Polanski duet. But those who like their sexual politics served in symbolic form will be delighted. Polanski's wife Emmanuelle Seigner stars as an actress, Vanda, and Polanski-lookalike Mathieu Amalric as the writer-director Thomas.

Action film fans should stay away from this Roman Polanski duet. But those who like their sexual politics served in symbolic form will be delighted. Polanski's wife Emmanuelle Seigner stars as an actress, Vanda, and Polanski-lookalike Mathieu Amalric as the writer-director Thomas.

It's not entirely an adaptation of the 1870 novella by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (from whom the word masochism derives), but a version of the David Ives play about the link between sexual obsession, pleasure and pain. 

Venus in Fur is like a play: the entire 95 minute duration is set within the confines of a Parisian auditorium, moving from the cheap seats to the proscenium arch, complete with theatrical lighting. Two characters take on different roles using costume, direction and script - the hooker and harangued caster, the actress and the director, the writer and the muse, the therapist and the disturbed.

The pair dance fluidly between the narrative and the script of the play they are enacting in an audition about two people united forever - whether by passion or perversion is for us to work out. Their lines slide seamlessly between the script and their real conversation, with camera angles from stage front adding to the sense of voyeurism. The shifting landscape of power is such that she begs him to audition for the part and, when she does so, he begs her to play the role.

Something's not quite right, and as the action descends further into mind-games and a play on control, we wonder - why/how does Vanda know the script so well? The dance of power waltzes on until the tables are finally turned, with this femme fatale as the aggressor with a strong political warning, and a backstory all of her own that only fully emerges in the hallucinatory final dance.

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