Review: Roman Polanski's Venus in Fur

Roman Polanski's latest film Venus In Fur (an adaptation of the David Ives play) sticks to a single-location packed with a theatrical claustrophobia and boasts a quick-witted narrative that delves into the Freudian world of psychosexual politics.

Mathieu Amalric steps into the role of playwright Thomas who is holding auditions for a lead role in his adaptation of Sacher-Masoch's risqué novel Venus in Furs. The arrival of spirited actress Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) soon leads to fiction and reality blending together for the playwright.

Like Polanski's best works Venus in Fur thrives on its claustrophobic, stifled atmosphere - with the apartments in Repulsion, Rosemary's Baby and The Tenant all standing as prime examples of the directors mastery. Now Polanski tackles a stuffy theatre on a rainy evening where a near-exhausted Thomas reads lines with the passionate (and arguably overbearing) Vanda. What appears to begin as a casual audition is soon gradually unveiled to present audiences with a complex, yet ever enthralling psychosexual mind game.

Sacher-Masoch's novel concerns Severin von Kusiemski, a man so infatuated with a woman (conveniently also named Vanda) that he pleads to be treated as her slave and submit to any degradation that she enforces upon him. As Thomas and Vanda rehearse segments that have been adapted from the novel we gradually watch the pair fall into Masoch's roles of Severin and Vanda - each becoming so engrossed that the traits of power and submission bleed into their working dynamic. Packed with Polanski's expected wit and unnerving tension, Venus in Fur is a fascinating glimpse into the psychology behind power and control.

Seigner dominates the screen as Vanda - at first appearing somewhat scatterbrained and over-zealous, the actress showcases a darker and more complex angle to the character as she joyously inhabits the dominate role of Masoch's Vanda. There's a real delight in seeing the spirited actress flip the balance of power between she and Thomas. Polanski also alludes to darker premeditated actions behind Vanda's behaviour which helps pack the role with a sinister edge and unnerving suspicion. Amalric also excels as the drained playwright who is slowly awoken by the desire and submissive longing in the character which he plays. Proceedings get suitably warped and downright creepy in the final act, but Polanski's focus ensures that events always remain gripping.

With its wry humour, sinister narrative, unnerving tension and claustrophobia, Polanski delivers a real treat with Venus in Fur which is a tremendous addition to his already exceptional body of work.

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