Venus in Fur: Polanski’s Adaptation of David Ives Broadway Hit Play

It’s hard to tell what exactly motivates Roman Polanski in choosing material for the big screen, and to what extent he enoys freedom to do so, now that he is one of the oldest directors around.

Venus in Fur, Polanski’s adaptation of American playwright David Ives’ Broadway hit of the same name, is a better movie than Polanski’s previous film, Carnage, also a transfer from stage to screen.

The film world premiered to mixed critical response in competition at the Cannes Film Fest.

An expert in how human beings conduct power and sexual mind games, especially in confined claustrophobic spaces, Polanksi revisits issues that have concerned him since his 1960s masterpiece, Repulsion, starring Catherine Deneuve.

The play premiered Off Broadway in 2010 and transferred uptown in 2011, boasted a great performance by Nina Arianda, who won a Tony Award for her role, now played by the French actress, Emmanuelle Seigner, Polanski’s wife.  The male lead in this tense, intimate drama is played by Mathieu Amalric (who looks a bit like the young Polanski).  This casting makes the film’s subtext richer, encouraging viewers to speculate about the relationship of the director to his own wife.

The tale is told from the POV os Vanda (Seigner), an actress arriving at a theater late and unscheduled to audition, after the rest of the staff have left.  The only one present is the playwright-director, Thomas Novachek (Amalric) , who comes across as an angry misogynist.

The interaction takes place on the set of a Belgian musical version of Stagecoach. Thomas has been attempting to cast his play, adapted from the 1870 Austrian novella by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

 

Credits

Venue: Cannes Film Festival (Competition)

Cast: Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric

Production companies: RP Productions, Monolith Films, in association with Manon 3, Mars Films

Director: Roman Polanski

Screenwriter: David Ives, Roman Polanski, based on the play by Ives; French translation by Abel Gerschenfeld

Producers: Robert Benmussa, Alain Sarde

Director of photography: Pawel Edelman

Production designer: Jean Rabasse

Music: Alexandre Desplat

Editors: Margot Meynier, Herve de Luze

Costume designer: Dinah Colin

 

No rating, 96 minutes.