2014, 15, Directed by Roman Polanski
Having not so much challenged than entertained audiences with play adaptation Carnage in 2010, capable filmmaker Roman Polanski - recently inducted into his eighties - treads familiar ground with Venus In Fur, a stage-for-screen re-telling of David Ives' play, which itself follows a playwright-turned-director in the process of auditioning actresses for the lead role in a new play based upon 1870 novella Venus In Furs by Leopoldo von Sacher-Masoch.
After a lengthy day turning down sub-par and prima donna actresses, enter Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner), a unique fast-talking female who shares fluent knowledge of every line in the play, as well as name with the lead character. Finally agreeing to audition her, Thomas (Matthieu Amalric) reads the role of masochistic character Henri, whilst Vanda slips effortlessly into her counterpart. Manipulation leads to domination in a two-hander set singularly in a dimly lit theatre, which goes some way to heightening Vanda's mysticism, Thomas' confusion and the two's sexual tension, rising with every passing second.
Flitting between audition to analytical debate of the play's themes, the dialogue soon becomes concurrent with the situation, as Polanski employs the camera to do nothing but crawl around the two with a simultaneous dramatically-charged build up of unease, as gender dynamics - and as the audition progresses, roles - overwhelm the increasingly debauched situation (original author Masoch derived the term 'masochism').
For some, the material may not justify the structure, but Venus In Fur's entertainment - nowhere near as overt as seeing Foster, C. Reilly, Winslet and Waltz throw touchy put downs at one another for 90 minutes - stems from the overarching sense of dread, in itself not all too justifiable. Still, Amalric and Seigner dazzle like it's their last performance they'll give, which should provide recommendation enough to take a seat, drape yourself in the nearest blanket and witness an intriguing slice of French-language fun.