Venus In Fur (2014)

Venus In FurPlaywright Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) is seeking to direct an adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novel, Venus In Furs. Before he can begin, however, he needs a leading lady, and that is proving more difficult than he expected. While on the phone, bemoaning the lack of credible contenders for the role, Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) enters the theatre and begs Thomas to let her read for the part, despite the lateness of the hour. He agrees, and the two begin to run through the play with Vanda proving far more adept and appropriate than he ever might have imagined.

I’m not sure how much to tell you about the plot of Venus In Fur. In fact, I’m not sure there’s that much to tell. I went in knowing less than nothing (I couldn’t even remember the name), and found myself pleasantly surprised by Roman Polanski’s meta-fiction. Venus In Fur is indeed a play based on Sacher-Masoch’s novel — the story of a man, Severin von Kusiemski, who dreams of being dominated by a woman, Wanda von Dunajew — and Polanski’s film is an adaptation of that play. It sounds incredibly complicated, but the beauty of Venus In Fur is in fact its simplicity.

This is ultimately the story of a writer who becomes the character he is drafting; it’s a be-careful-what-you-wish-for fable which gives Thomas exactly what he — and by extension Severin — have always wanted. Similarly, Vanda becomes Wanda, playing with the theatre’s lighting and making subtle alterations to her own clothing until she becomes the character in question. Venus In Fur starts out as an audition, then transitions seamlessly into a rehearsal and finally becomes real life. It’s a film of almost innumerable layers, with the stage going through as many metamorphoses as the characters.

As impressive as Polanski’s writing and direction may well be, it’s the performances of the film’s two actors that are the most remarkable of all. Amalric is exceptional as Thomas/Severin, a would-be submissive who doesn’t just want to direct Vanda but be dominated by her. Seigner (actually Polanski’s wife) is even more astonishing, transforming before his — and our — eyes into someone else altogether. It’s a performance within a performance, and the way she flits in and out of character showcases a skill and method that more than justify’s her casting. You don’t know whether she’s a real person or simply a figure of Thomas’ imagination; all you know is that she really could be either.

Venus In Fur is a very small film — intimate and understated– but it makes more of an impression than you might expect. It’s quietly gripping, unexpectedly enigmatic and really quite mesmerising; titillating if never exactly exciting. It’s food for though, just as long as you’re not too hungry.

3-Stars

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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