DRAMA; 1hr 36min (French with subtitles)
STARRING: Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric
Venus/Mars: Seigner and Amalric
As actress hopeful Vanda, Seigner charges into the theatre audition for the play Venus in Fur with the brassy fanfare of an act of God. Late, drenched and frantic, Vanda — significantly, also the name of the character she’s auditioning for — is a scatty whirlwind. But when she persuades scornful writer-director Thomas (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly ’s Amalric), who adapted Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novel and takes it very seriously, to give her a go, the balance of power blurs.
Improbably, Vanda is a subtle, foxy performer (and is played by Venus director Roman Polanski’s wife). Dipping in and out of character, she and Thomas work through the script, in which — von Sacher-Masoch being the father of masochism — an aristocratic man is in self-punishing thrall to a wily woman. Like her character, Vanda is a more clever and controlling cookie than she initially let on and like his character, Thomas is a goner.
Even with actors as on-form as these, stage-rejigged two-handers often feel boxed-in, but the dynamic here is unforced. That said, despite its twisty manoeuvres and Seigner’s chocolate box sensuality, this tub-thumping talkathon is an acquired taste.