Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Venus in Furs

We learn quite early on in Roman Polanski’s latest movie that its not based on the Lou Reed song that was released on The Velvet Undergrounds debut album in 1967 but on the story written by Leopald von Sacher-Masoch, the great-great uncle of Marianne Faithful and the man who gave his name to the enjoyment of receiving pain. Polanski’s film Venus in Furs (2013) is based on a two-person play by David Ives, who helped Polanski adapt it for the screen, and which was originally set in modern New York City and premiered on Broadway in 2011.
The beautiful Wanda von Dunayev.
Set in a run down Parisian theatre, Thomas Novacheck (Mathieu Amalric who has an uncanny resemblance to the Polish auteur) has written an adaptation of Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novelette and is alone in the theatre after a long day unsuccessfully auditioning actresses for the leading role of Wanda von Dunayev. Just as the debut director is about to leave the building for home in waltzes a dishevelled actress, Vanda Jourdain (Emmanuelle Seigner, the present wife of Roman Polanski) who begs the rather despondent director to let her read for the part. At first he refuses, suspecting that the woman is no better than the flock of hopefuls he has already seen, but she eventually persuades him.  Much to his surprise she has a complete understanding of the part she is about to play and when Thomas reads the part of Severin von Kusiemski he becomes completely obsessed, drawn into the world of masochism, furs, bondage and submission.
Wanda or is it Vanda asserts her every whim on Severin or is it Thomas? 

This movie is a play within a play, where we witness both life as a play, and a play-acting out life. The two actors are totally convincing in the ‘dual’ roles they perform. Except at the opening credits and at the end credits, the film is completely based within the confines of the theatre. The skill of the writing was very much appreciated by this blogger; its humour and the clever manipulating of the characters were superb. Polanski in top form, in what’s unusual for him – a grand comedy. Not to be missed.

Venus in Furs.

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