Venus in Fur (La Vénus à la fourrure) (2014)
Starring Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric
Directed by Roman Polanski
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***
Thomas Novacheck (Mathieu Amalric) has just written a new play based on the aforementioned Sacher-Masoch's book. If you look at that author's name close enough, you'll realize that the term "masochism" is derived from it which gives us a slight idea into just the kind of play Novacheck has written. When Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) arrives to the auditions late, her brash personality instantly wins over Thomas who was more than ready to call it a day after seeing tens of women who did not fit the play's female role. At first, Vanda seems a shoo-in for the part, allowing herself to succumb to the desires of the play's protagonist. However, as the evening continues, Vanda begins to take control of things, attempting to turn the tables on both Sacher-Masoch and Novacheck's idealizations of male domination.
His personal life notwithstanding, I've always found myself a fan of Roman Polanski's work and there is certainly much to admire here. Taking place all within the confines of a theater and its stage, Polanski keeps things visually appealing, utilizing the camera, lighting, and music to keep the rather simplistic staging invigorating. Both actors are captivating and while Vanda's motives aren't entirely clear, I have to imagine that this vagueness is what playwright (and co-screenwriter with Polanski) David Ives was attempting when he wrote the original play. On stage, this ambiguity may have worked a little better, but here it keeps us at a distance from Vanda which seems a bit unfortunate.
Should I watch this again or see this on stage, I think I'd appreciate it much more upon a repeat viewing. As it stands now, the intricacies of some of the commands, directives, and mandates Vanda places on Thomas were lost on me a bit and, admittedly, became a bit tiresome as the film progressed across its ninety minute run time. Venus in Fur is an interesting film and one that I'd recommend -- but I'm not sure you'll find it enjoyable. I'm not entirely sure I did either.
The RyMickey Rating: C