"Venus in Fur" Flows Smooth as Sable Stole

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Venus in Fur

“Venus in Fur” takes place in a Paris theater, where the director of a play about a woman entering into an agreement to dominate her male counterpart, feels exhausted and frustrated after holding auditions all day for the woman’s role and not finding anyone remotely close to what he is looking for. Just as he is getting ready to leave for the day, in from the rain barges a pushy domineering actress bent on getting an audition even though she is not prepared (or so it seems at first).

He repeatedly tells her no, but she is relentless and impresses him with her inborn nature to understand the role more completely than any person should--understanding not only the role of Vanda (which happens to be her name as well), but also the man’s role. She also shows him ways to light the stage better, and makes additions to play, beginning the subtle transformation of an actress reading for a role to what she really seems to be in real life: that she is the role she is reading for and that he in turn is the dominated man he has always secretly longed to be.

There are only two actors in the movie: Mathieu Amalric as the writer/director Thomas, and Emmanuelle Seigner (Mrs. Roman Polanski, who directed) as Vanda. The film is based on the Tony Award winning Broadway play by David Ives, and from start to finish this movie never fails to be entertaining.

While the subject matter of domination may sound like this movie is going to be an exposé in sexual deviations, it is anything but. It isn’t so much a movie about the acts of domination but about the desire of someone who wants to be. It is neither rude, crude, demeaning nor shocking. There isn’t any nudity in the movie until briefly at the very end, and it is filmed such that it is not seen as gratuitous. What it is is an excellent example of a finely crafted script being read by very fine actors, directed and filmed by one of the industry’s best. In someone else’s hands, this might have easily gone down that path; here it is just great cinema.

Both Emmanuelle and Mathieu succeed in convincing audiences that they are not just reading lines. While it is subtitled, they both deliver their lines so fluently that the pace and rhythm just seem so natural. There was no evidence of seeing someone thinking about what their next line was. I find that the better European actors and actresses deliver their lines with an ease and naturalness that is seldom found in Hollywood anymore.

Emmanuelle is the real treasure in this movie. She is loud, boisterous and opinionated and at the same time she has an aura of sensuality about her when she is reading her lines that is just slightly different when she is turning the tables on the writer--and that’s the home run here. It is very hard to tell where the acting stops and reality starts.

I have always found it difficult for movies that take place in one set to keep me engaged from start to finish, because there is nothing new to see. But “Venus in Fur” is all about the actors, and they were awesome and that was enough to keep me engaged.

 

 

Roman Polanski films things just the right way. He films the scenes from so many angles within the four walls that you think there is more there. But always the main focus is on the actors, so you never miss the subtle clues of the transformation going on before your eyes and ears. It also just seems right--more correct--that it is filmed in French, as it is such a beautiful language that has a sensuality all its own. Even when something is said that is crude, it still sounds beautiful.

For a movie today to succeed on script, acting and directing without any special effects or exotic locations seems to be rare, but “Venus in Furs” is one that does so hands down--a real winner.

The only extras included with this DVD are Interviews with the Director and Actors, oddly all filmed in English (after having listened to them speak French for the entire movie), and the trailer for the movie (narrated in English).

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0