Everyone has heard of sadomasochism and many know that the sadistic half is an eponym of the Marquis de Sade, but fewer know of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch and his 1870 novel Venus in Furs. The narrator of that novel is a stand-in for Sacher-Masoch himself, and its events are the erotic fantasy of a man who finds sensual pleasure in being dominated by a woman, whom he deifies as a Venus—a love goddess made cold and perfect as sculpture—draped in furs, symbolic of barbarism and conquest. (In his vision, this Venus is also holding a whip.)
Contemporary depictions of the Dominatrix follow from Sacher-Masoch’s early literary work, and the work and its themes have long inspired several artists and musicians, such as Velvet Underground. The novel was adapted to a Tony-Award winning Broadway play in 2010, Venus in Fur. The play is a meta-narration, wherein a woman is auditioning for a stage version of the novel, and before she or the director or the audience even realizes it, she is transformed into the ideal of the novel and things get…interesting.
It is this version that serves as the basis for the latest film by Roman Polanski. Known professionally for his legendary and challenging films such as Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown, Polanski takes the origin of female dominance as his subject in Venus in Fur. The work stands alone to some degree, and Polanski can transfix audiences with difficult subjects. However, knowing that the director’s personal scandals include the 1977 statutory rape of a 13-year old girl while she was drugged is a disturbing thing to square with a film that endows a woman with power through her sexuality above all—her ability to dominate and deny men, thereby bringing men a different sort of gratification. The film and its source material are complicated already, and under Polanski’s direction, there will certainly be much for audiences to reflect on.
|Principal Cast:||Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric|
|Running Time:||95 Minutes|
Venus in Furs is playing now through July 18 at Varsity Theater (4329 University Way NE).