Closing film – Cannes Film Festival
Compared to Venus in Fur, Polaski’s own life is far more dramatic.In fact if he faithfully filmed his own autobiography the audience may balk at the madness of his existence.His long pending case of child abuse has of course passed into history and he continues to practice his vocation far away from where he would love to be- America.Venus in Fur jumps out at you as a deeply personal film starting with the choice of the lead actors, his wife Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathiew Amalric, who is as close to a doppelgänger of Polanski as one can get.
Polanski’s last film was Carnage, a sharply observed social drama about a bunch of maladjusted Manhattan residents, his obtuse commentary on the hypocrisy of the country that has kept him in limbo and anguish for so long.Venus in Fur goes a step further, he lays bare his irritation with a society that labels every non conformist sexual action as anomalous, bordering on the criminal.The film is based on the play Venus in Fur by David Ivy which in turn is based on the cult 1870 novel by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s which gave us the word masochism.The setup is simple, a frustrated writer director at his wits end trying to find a lead actress for the play which is heavily laden with sexuality of the S&M kind.
In walks Vanda (Seigner), and traps the director in a dangerous game where real life gets ahead of the story too soon.Turns out that she understands his play much better than him and he has been suppressing his true nature all along.As the actors switch back and forth between the lines from the play to exchanging real life dialogue we hear Polanski making a desperate plea to be understood.
He seems to be saying we have disconnected the fundamental nature of man and woman from our understanding of sexuality and have become perhaps more hypocritical about things than say the Victorians themselves.For example this week new research on the Neanderthals suggest they indulged in both incest and cannibalism.The underage girl that he had sex with has dropped all charges and moved on,and has acknowledged the fact that she was as complicit in the act as him.
The director character on stage tries to resist the temptations of the beautiful Emmanuelle but finally we see him enslaved by her and totally at her mercy.Polanski seems to be saying that character lies not in its suppression but in its celebration.Everybody seems to have forgiven him except the law in a foreign country whose people do not care about his case.Examine the case of Dominic Strauss Kahn, the brilliant but disgraced IMF chief, who may have become the President of France in place of Francois Hollande and changed the course of history.
Apart from its obvious autobiographical under/over-tones the film packs tons of sparking dialogue and scintillating performances by both the leads.In a way I was reminded of Lars von Trier’s Dogville and Manderlay, not just because of the artifice of a sound stage but in its indictment of pervasive hypocrisy.Yes this is a filmed play, much more so than Carnage, but made uniquely cinematic with the precision of its filming.Watching the same actors perform this as a play from anywhere beyond the first two rows would have been very different and much more expensive experience.
Filmmakers often burden themselves with creating images when a few words would have done the trick and Polanski who is a master of cinema seems to be saying that he wants to say somethings and he will say it aloud rather than showing it.Venus in Fur totally works because it distills its message into a screenplay that is crisp, entertaining and unapologetic.The master filmmaker is in full form, this film needs to be screened for the members of Indian parliament as they pussyfoot on the need to debate and legislate on decriminalizing gar sex.No! sorry, that’s a bad idea, they are much more likely to say,”look we told you – we can’t allow this type of western perversion here”.
#Actually the Khajuraho temples were built by the British, before Queen Victoria ascended the throne.May her pure soul rest in peace!
Categories: World Cinema