Mini-Review: Roman Polanski’s Film Adaptation of David Ives’ Tony Award Nominated Play Venus in Fur (2013)

venus in fur
It’s late in the evening, it’s storming outside and Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) just wants to go home to his girlfriend and eat some sushi. It’s been a long day of auditions. None of the women that auditioned seemed right for the part. Thomas is just about to leave, when out of nowhere a mysterious and voluptuous woman shows up. Her name is Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner), like the just like character in the Leopold von Sacher-Masoch-inspired Venus in Furs. Thomas has no intention of auditioning her, but she is very persistent. As she starts reciting the lines, he becomes entranced by her. Soon the lines between fiction and reality start to blur. 

Roman Polanski’s Venus in Fur (original French title: La Vénus à la fourrure) is based on David Ives’ Tony award nominated theater play, which in turn was inspired by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch homonymous novel of female dominance and sadomasochism. It seems that lately Polanski is loving these theater adaptations, because he recently also directed Carnage (based on Yasmina Reza’s play God of Carnage). Venus in Fur a typical Roman Polanski feel, in that the film feels almost surreal, like a very vivid dream, which seems real, but is also nightmarish and boarder-line insane.

Polanski’s character are very obsessive, so you could interpret the whole film as a metaphor for something happening in Thomas’ head. Although it’s not an original screenplay, the film feels one-hundred percent Polanski thanks to his cinematographer and long-time collaborator Pawel Edelman. Edelman manages to make what’s essentially a two-person theater play not look boring. In addition to that you have a fantastic score by one of my favorite composers: Alexandre Desplat. Desplat perfectly captures the mood and tone of a Polanski film. The music has a classic and timeless quality to it, in fact I could have sworn he used preexisting music.

What I loved about this film besides the many complex layers (it’s a film based on a play, inspired by a book etc.) is Mathieu Amalric. It’s uncanny how much he looks like a young Roman Polanski, which adds another layer of analysis. In the film Vanda is convinced that Thomas has sadomasochistic tendencies himself. Both actors give excellent performances and effortlessly switch from the character in the play and the character they play for the film. The film is also fascinating in regards of what it says about theater and acting, but more importantly what it says about “relationships” for lack of a better term.

Venus in Fur is great because it challenges our politically correct obsessed society and shows how that ruins the mystery and mystique of art. We have a tendency to over-analyze art, to the point where it is trivialized and turned into something boring and tasteless, just like I’m doing right now. Seriously though, Venus in Fur is kind of genius, because it’s so well-written and flawlessly acted. I certainly hope to check out the theater production one day to see how it differs from Polanski’s vision. This film gives the term sexual tension a whole new meaning: Emmanuelle Seigner, everybody.

7.5 out of 10

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5 comments

  1. Alina (literaryvittles)

    Sounds like a beautiful and interesting film! I’m a bit sorry to say that I’ve only seen a couple of Polanski’s films – “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Pianist.” Liked the latter, couldn’t stand the former, but that’s only because I found Mia Farrow to be incredibly annoying.

    • Davide Perretta

      It is indeed. Yeah, after what I’ve read about Mia certainly I can’t look at her films the same way, but she’s still a terrific actress. Polanski is slowly, but surely becoming one of my very favorite filmmakers. I can also recommend Tess, Bitter Moon and Chinatown of course!

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