An actress attempts to convince a director how she’s perfect for a role in his upcoming production.
If this review prevents one innocent bystander from watching this movie then it was worth the pain and turmoil. Please let me be your sacrificial lamb on this one. You may be thinking, “Hey it’s only 70 something minutes long. I can survive that”, but we all know that a horrible film has the sadistic power to slow down and even stop time in its tracks. When you’re on your deathbed and your whole life is flashing before your eyes, upon the memory of watching this film you will be trapped for eternity.
Venus in Furs, based on a book I haven’t read but I can’t imagine being worse, is the whoopee-cushion of the artsy and the fartsy. Filmed in glorious black and white, the story centers on a master/slave sexual relationship between Wanda the dominant and Severin the submissive servant. Wanda’s motivation is to mistreat Severin to the point that he will leave her but as Severin explains, his love for Wanda is so relentless that he will never leave her no matter what she does. Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place.
The story could lend itself to exploring many themes and questions. Is unrequited love the only love that can be considered perfect? Should sexual pleasures be taken without regard to the pain inflicted on the partner? Why is there a human desire to be engulfed in another person’s existence to the point where we escape our own? I’m assuming the novel does discuss some of these topics, but the movie ponders over nothing. You might be thinking 50 Shades of Grey with the roles reversed? This black and white film probably has fifty different shades of grey in it but the comparisons stop there. Well they both suck, they have that in common too.
The film consists of minimal dialogue and a pace that could win no race. Mostly the lovers lay in bed together. We get to see Wanda (Anne van de Ven) grace us with her attractive bare body about every ten minutes. Other than that he watch Severin iron Wanda’s laundry and clip her toenails. Wanda makes him jealous running off with another guy a few times. At one point she whips Severin’s back and starts to cry for no apparent reason which leads to her being held and comforted by Severin (a scene that I hope the book gives more explanation for).
At some point the movie leaves the bedroom and takes a surrealistic location swop to an underground dungeon. I’ve pretty much just listed all the significant events in the movie just now. Everything else is neither here nor there nor anywhere and resembles kind of a dream too uneventful to remember. At some point half way through, Wanda says to Severin regarding her abuse of him, “I’ve done nothing yet. Wait until I really begin”. And so I waited and waited for her to really begin. I wish she had. There are barely any scenes of masochistic display and the topic is not really discussed in the film. If you’re looking for flicks that explore the themes of S&M this will not satisfy.
The one good thing that I can say about this film is it’s elegantly shot with a striking aesthetic sensibility that can only be found in black and white pictures. If you go into this movie void of any need for narrative and just experience it as the art form of moving pictures that it can be, you could find redemption. I think it’s likely that the book is perhaps light on dialogue and the themes of the novel are explained in inner-dialogue and the 3rd person narrative. The movie didn’t bother making the appropriate adjustments for a film format. Maybe it works alright as a companion piece to the novel.
You could say I just didn’t get it. I didn’t get it. I don’t believe a film has to or should give you all the answers but it should give you some guidance. At the very least it should provide you with the questions.