Venus in Fur

No, not “Venus in Furs” !

It is  “Venus in Fur” without the ‘s’.

It is not a play of the book. Well it is, indirectly.

This is a stage play – and a film now – about a stage director who is auditioning actresses for his own adaptation of the book “Venus in Furs”, and almost in despair of never finding the right one, allows a final audition to an outwardly trashy actress, who not only surprises him by her amazing acting  as the play progresses , but also completely turns his life around.

Confused yet? I was when I first heard of the play. Like many outside the theatre-going public it was when film director Roman Polanski announced he was going to produce his own adaptation in a French translation, with his wife Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric in the lead roles. I naturally assumed it was a dramatisation of the book itself. In fact there are only two actors in the entire play so when I first read about it and then later saw the stills from the movie I was admittedly cool about it.
After all, how could the whole of Venus in Furs be dramatised on stage with only two actors?

Of course I did not make the distinction.

But people kept asking me what I thought of the film (because of my translation and illustrations I was now thought of as some authority, maybe) so in the end I relented, thinking I had to base an opinion and so I sat grimly through the first few minutes. Rather like the director on stage Thomas Novachek (not the director of the play itself, by the way) who gradually warms to the personality of actress Vanda Jordan, I warmed to the script as I realised that the play’s author David Ives really understood the book itself and I started to enjoy the way the two characters reacted to each other and was thoroughly won over as the film ended.

So when the play finally came to Theatre Royal Haymarket in London I was enthusiastic to see it. In company with Mistress Tess and her admirer, we saw Natalie Dormer as Vanda and David Oakes as Thomas in a production directed by Patrick Marber. I was pleased at last to hear it in English instead of subtitled from the French film and it quite lived up to my expectations. Lots of great comic and insightful moments that really reflected the whole dynamic between Severin and Wanda in the original book.

3 thoughts on “Venus in Fur

  1. The Sacher-Masoch book being probably like some kind of Bible for the BDSM people, I read it for the first time when I was just 12 y.o. and had already begun interesting games with my lovely girlfriends…lol
    I didn’t like too much the Italian translation, so when I left for the University in England, back in the late ’60s, I bought a new edition in London, that was much better.
    Finally last year, I had the pleasure of owning a copy of your own, completely new translation, with your drawings, and with your personal signature on it, that for me was quite like having Don Quixote, or Poe’s The Crow, with the Doré engravings, that is, nothing better in the world.

    In the meanwhile, one of my favourite directors, Roman Polanski, decided to film the Broadway’s play, Venus In Fur. I bought the Blu Ray version, to see it at home (it played only for three days in the multiplex cinemas in town…) and I must say that I was simply mesmerized by the whole play and the great acting of the two artists. Nothing to do with the original plot of the book, but…wow! It’s still a pure theatre’s piece just put on film, but finally a movie about the true psychology of a BDSM relationship! A very rare thing, in our “shades of grey” world… And the magical thing about it, is that there’s absolutely no sadomasochistic activity in the whole play, yet, it’s so much more exciting than any other thing I ever saw.
    I put the play among the best ones of the last decade and the movie an absolute masterpiece, that will stay forever in the history of films.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Yes,it’s all psychological. I don’t remember who was the first that said the mind is the most powerful sexual organ, but it’s absolutely true. That’s why Art is so important in our lives, both in everyday life and and the sexual one: because it stimulates the mind, as is the case of your magnificent drawings; that single moment in time caught by your pencil or brush, on paper or canvas, forces our mind to imagine what happened before and what it’ll happen after, and in so doing, we become the artists ourselves, creating with our imagination an entire storyline that stimulates our erotic needs, so much better than any other explicit story written, photographed or filmed by a person that may, or may not, have our same, particular tastes…

        And indeed the poor tourists must have been disappointed by the lack of action in the play, unless they got caught the right way by the magnificent text (and acting).

        Surely they will miss the delightful, ol’ days of 20, Rue Chaptal’s Grand Guignol!


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