Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) is a playwright directing his first play and after a long day of auditions he’s about to head home when Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) comes in out of the rain. She’s here to audition and she’s not going to be put off by his efforts to get her out the door and gradually she wears him down enough for them to at least start talking about his play, an adaptation of the classic story ‘Venus in Fur’ about a man’s obsession with a woman who can dominate and control him. But as they continue, their roles start to shift. Is it the director in control, or the actress?
Roman Polanski’s latest film is another of his stage adaptations (following on from 2011’s Carnage), but where that was a relatively straightforward look at squabbling grown-ups, this is more subtle about its subject matter – and more effective for it. As the story progresses the power balance between the pair is constantly shifting, both in the play they’re rehearsing and their “real lives” (one of the strengths of this story is the way they become increasingly archetypical as the story progresses – is Vanda a real actress or something more?), making this a literary examination of the original story, a look at male-female relationships, a study in power dynamics, and a lot more besides.
It may just be two people in a theatre, but this is a lot more interesting, and has a lot more to offer, than most cast-of-thousands blockbusters.
Written by Anthony Morris