There’s a key difference between a young artist and an experienced artist. A young artist takes a huge theme and makes it into a small story. An experienced artist takes a small theme and blows it into stratosphere. Just take a look at what Roman Polanski is doing these days.
Carnage was minimalist. It had four actors and a ridiculously minor incident at its centre. Venus In Fur is even more extreme. It has two actors and a seemingly routine audition at the end of a busy day. Like Carnage, Venus In Fur was based on a play. Like Carnage, it’s intense, has a great dialogue and is an absolute feast to watch.
This of course is all about the famed and controversial 1870 novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. It’s Paris. A small theatre amid gloomy surroundings. Writer-director Thomas Novachek is planning a stage adaptation of Venus In Furs. Vanda is a girl who comes into the theatre at the end of an exhausting day with the desperate intention of getting the main part. She has it all: the looks, the attitude, the costumes, even the name. Reluctantly (it’s been one hell of a day and his fiancée is waiting), Thomas lets her do the thing. He becomes Severin (he is not an actor, but he can read), they trade the lines, and suddenly it all comes alive. Art becomes life and life becomes art. The psychological insight that Polanski offers is priceless.
That said, the joy of Venus In Fur is in the acting. The chemistry between Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric (who looks a little like Polanski himself in his La Locataire years) is extreme, brutal, mesmerising. I couldn’t look away. Seigner in particular captures the screen and devours it with natural swagger and electrifying eroticism. She is the perfect Venus. Or maybe it’s Thomas Novachek?..
Venus In Fur is many things: hidden demons, insecurity, creative struggle. But it really is about art. How frightening it is. How complex and punishing. How jealous of life. Exceptional film.