Playwright Thomas Novacheck was all but ready to give up on finding a leading lady for his play, and then the enigmatic Vanda walked in. Could the seemingly scatterbrained actress who shares a name with the play’s leading lady be the one? My review of Venus in Fur after the jump.
Thomas Novacheck (Mathieu Amalric) is a man at his wit’s end. He’s spent the day auditioning actresses for his new play ‘Venus in Fur’, an adaptation of the 1870 novel Venus in Furs by Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, but has not found anyone even close to the character (called Vanda) that he has in his mind. He’s just about to leave for the day when a frazzled woman comes rushing into the theatre. She announces that her name is Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) and she is there to audition. Using some rather interesting reasoning, Vanda eventually convinces Thomas to allow her to read for the part.
What occurs during the audition is more than just a run through of lines. It’s a debate on gender stereotypes, a contemplation of life and a whole lot of sexual chemistry. The longer Thomas spends with Vanda, the more he convinced she is the one – the one for the play and maybe in fact for him. He becomes enthralled by her, obsessed even, and their personalities bleed into the characters on the page. Vanda challenges Thomas on almost every aspect of the characters and he is forced to reassess his writing and the way he views the world. I loved the way that Vanda toyed with Thomas, it was 90% wit and intelligence and 10% skin. Anyone who doubts that conversation can be as sexy as physical intimacy needs to watch this film.
Emmanuelle Seigner (who is director Roman Polanski’s wife) is absolutely captivating as Vanda. Her delivery switches between painfully smart and wickedly playful, she’s really very entertaining to watch. Mathieu Amalric is amusing as Thomas and plays the confused, love-struck man very well. I can only imagine that Polanski’s adaptation is true to the play (Venus in Fur by David Ives) which the film is adapted from. The film takes place in a sparsely decorated theater and Polanski makes great use of the different aspects of the stage. The props are few, but each has an important (and often small) part to play. There is certainly no time nor decoration wasted here. The score by Alexandre Desplat is sensual and evokes a real sense of mystery.
Venus in Fur is pleasure for the mind and the senses.
By Sam McCosh
Director: Roman Polanski
Writer(s): Roman Polanski & David Ives (screenplay)
Starring: Emmanuelle Seigner & Mathieu Amalric
Runtime: 96 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: July 17 2014; New Zealand: screens as part of the 2014 New Zealand International Film Festival.