Some say it's a song, other's say it's a painting. It's all that, as well as a book, a theatre play and lately an entertaining film by Roman Polanski. But, Venus in Fur(s) is more than this; Venus in Fur(s) is a game we like to play every too often.
The shifting power between the two sexes is a topic many authors got inspiration from; love has nothing to do with it, just like love has nothing to do with this film. Eroticism is, after all, only loosely based on love -in essence, eroticism starts on a whim, out of a random attraction, which gives way to a desire to possess and if, and only if the love story lasts, then, ok, I can admit a deeper kind of bond binds the two lovers.
Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch had the brilliant idea to describe how suffering in an eroticised context relate to pleasure, and how fetishes, like fur for instance, can give a helping hand. In fact, Leopold, a big fan of real-life experiences, decided not to leave his fantasies unfulfilled. He was involved in a similar situation like the one he describes in his novel Venus in Furs (1869); I wouldn't know how to ease your curiosity, though, if you asked me the burning question: did he first live his masochistic dream and then went on to report on it, or did he first conceive it and re-enacted it afterwards?
But, what is the situation in question, the innocent of you will ask. Masoch's lovely experience and the storyline of his book goes as follows: boy loves girl, well, sort of. In fact, boy loves girl so much that he wants to be her slave. After signing a contract that he will serve her for six months, while she will treat him in the most degrading ways, off they go. During their trip to Italy by train, things go a little bit wrong after the dominatrix is attracted to someone else -but I will not spoil it for you.
So, how the hell David Ives had the idea to write a play on a director who is doing an audition in quest of the female lead who will be the dominating female on shiny boots of leather, only god knows. What I know is that he did very well, because humour and sex sell quite well these days, and they sell even better combined. The play got blazing reviews, went from off-off straight to Broadway, then to West End, then in many other countries, until Polanski decided this was the role he wanted to direct his wife in.
The result is a hilarious film set inside a theatre, largely on stage, with Emmanuelle Seignier as the dominating actress and Mathieu Amalric as the enchanted director. There's friction, infatuation and reality blends with fiction most of the time. Beware: this is a film for people who don't have the need for meaning in art, and who love theatre.
* Venus in Fur (2013) opened last year in Cannes, where Polanski was competing with it for the Palme d'Or. Seigner is not any more the fragile girl in the red dress who sacrifices herself in Frantic (1988) long ago. Seigner is now a woman who knows how to make a man lose his head over her (sic).
** Sincere question: why was the film produced in French as original language (and under the title La Venus à la Fourrure)? Seigner does English, too, isn't it?