To an unknowing eye, the film Venus in Fur may seem erratic and unpredictable. However, with a little insight into the many levels of adaptation the film contains, audiences most likely have left the theatre after viewing the film feeling empowered by the actions of the character Vanda, and the control she has over the director of the play in the film, Thomas.
A little hard to follow for a non-French speaker, the film still managed to capture the emotion and effect of power these two characters brought to life in their performance. The work within the work leaves a sense of development as not just the actors they were playing, but the people they are in reality.
The film engrosses itself into the issues of sexism, S&M, and misogyny. I felt that perhaps many people felt a sense of power within themselves after watching the film...watching a man be dominated and subjected to something many women feel they've had to deal with in the entire world's history.
While it was an interesting view, I can't help but look at it from a feminist point of view. While I can appreciate a strong female performance, (especially from a woman who breaks barriers from set standards men have set for what women should look or act like) it's hard for me to truly enjoy watching any human be dominated/humiliated. After all, being a feminist does not mean any woman should be domineering or powerful over any man or person. It just means women should be equal. Just as men should be.
There are so many meanings within this film, and the way it can be portrayed is certainly varied. The one I took away most was the fact that it seems no matter what twist the film took, it always led to the domination of one sex over the other. I can appreciate that in the end the woman came up on top, with all the power, but I was left a bit unsettled after watching the performance.
Admittedly, S&M is not something I fully understand. But something in the film struck me... Vanda pointed out in one of the scenes that it is never really about the other person when it comes to S&M. No matter who is being dominated, it always seems to be a selfish act. He dominates her for the power, she dominates him, he still holds the power by making her do these things to him. And vice versa.
To me, S&M takes away a part of sex that has further depth. It becomes less about the union of two people and more about the drastic needs of one or the other.
This film may have gone over my head a bit, but I do appreciate the art that was inputted into the film to tell a story of almost a world-history of domination between sexes, even if it may have been disguised in a sexual context.
In comparison to films I may view at home in California in a movie theatre....well there almost isn't any. These types of films are hard to come by in San Diego. Foreign and complex, it most likely would not do well in a box-office. The one thing I greatly appreciated about this film was its blatant use of sexuality to drive deeper points of meaning into the audience. Here in London, I feel the BFI entrusts in its audience to think artistically instead of on a surface level of what the film is. I wish the majority of San Diegans could be trusted to do the same.
Here's one of the paintings featured at the end of the film. It shows a woman gazing at herself in the mirror. It is not a painting of a woman made for a woman by a woman. Rather, it is a painting of woman looking at herself, painted by a man....most likely for a man, which I think speaks wonders in regard to sexism in history that is portrayed in this film.