Venus in Fur
Directed by Roman Polanski
Cornerhouse, 8 June 2014
At the end of the film there follows a parade of paintings, depictions of Venus by Titian et al, that serves as a kind of coda.
For, curious to relate, Polanski’s film of David Ives’ play is a feminist deconstruction of Sacher-Masoch’s infamous novel and also, more generally, a critique of the cult of woman that characterises Western art. This is by no means a new theme for cinema, of course; one can point, for example, to Hitchcock’s Vertigo. Here we have a man who wants to be a woman’s ‘slave’, but on his own terms. He wants to control her.
They give splendid performances, Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric, not least because they have to slip into and out of two or three different characters during the course of the film. And Polanski can still create great cinema, beginning here all calm and naturalistic, then slowly introducing chaotic and irrational elements, ending with Seigner performing a wild Dionysian dance.
On reflection, you can point to incoherencies, leads not followed through, key questions left unanswered (who or what is Vanda exactly?). But really, who cares? The film works, has worked its magic.
As for the source novel, it’s an interesting read no doubt but essentially the stuff of fantasy. BDSM-lite, despite Deleuze’s thoughts. Happy Baby is more truthful.