‘Venus in Fur’ Trailer: Roman Polanski’s S&M Desires Get a Little Lost in Translation


Sundance Selects

The first trailer for Roman Polanski‘s Venus in Fur actually debuted a few months ago. But alas, that trailer was in French, leaving all us non-Francophones out in the dust. We could look at the pictures. We could hoot when the pictures looked nice, scratch our heads in confusion when they didn’t. But anything above orangutan-level comprehension was a bit of a stretch.

Well, now the English-speaking world has its own Venus in Fur trailer, with subtitles and narration and a full grasp of “who are these people and what are they doing.” That’s the good. The bad is that our English-language introduction to Venus in Fur has lost a certain something in translation.

Venus in Fur, adapted from a play of the same name, is the story of Thomas (Mathieu Amalric), a playwright holding auditions for his latest work. So far, the auditions are a bust; every actress who’s come in to read has been flat and uninspired, and Thomas is filled with the indignant fury that can only come when the world just doesn’t understand his genius vision.

Enter Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner). She’s disheveled and yelly and may well be a crazy person, but she knows the part and she knows how to act. So Thomas and Martha do a read of the play, an adaptation of an 1870 novel, also titled “Venus in Furs,” in which a woman keeps a man as her personal sex slave. For reasons that are entirely obvious, Vanda’s potential craziness becomes fully realized craziness, and soon non-prop guns and knives and sexual tension work their way into the read-through.

How does the French trailer set things up? A sign on an auditorium door that says “Auditions” and then Vanda requesting an audition. So simple an orangutan could get the gist of it. The English trailer goes a slightly different route, opening with a long bout of narration:

On a stormy evening in the Heart of Paris, in a once grand theater, a director is wrapping up auditions for his new play. Or is he.

No one’s excited to hear this, not the audience and certainly not the actor doing the narrating (he can’t even be bothered to phrase “Or is he?” like it was a question), It makes the actual footage seem a little dull, like the contact high that occurs when someone yawns next to you.

Which is a shame, because the bits of Venus in Fur that poke out between lines like “How do you know where the acting ends… and the truth begins?” look wild and wonderful and not at all like the narration suggests. The two leads have a suitable mix of sexual tension and “please don’t stab me” tension, and Polanski’s done great things with a handful of actors, a single set and a lot of screamy stabby tension. Knife in the Water, Carnage, etc.

Maybe for his next film he can do the same: a narrator, trapped in a recording booth, forced to read the line “or is he?” and make it sound genuine. I’m getting goose pimples already.

Venus in Fur opens June 20, 2014.

Adam Bellotto is a freelancer writer from Virginia who moved to California because movies are super neat. His work can also be read at Perihelion Science Fiction and Starpulse, among other places.

Read More from Adam Bellotto
Get Film School Rejects in your email. All the cool kids are doing it:
Previous Article
Next Article
Reject Nation
Leave a comment
Comment Policy: No hate speech allowed. If you must argue, please debate intelligently. Comments containing selected keywords or outbound links will be put into moderation to help prevent spam. Film School Rejects reserves the right to delete comments and ban anyone who doesn't follow the rules. We also reserve the right to modify any curse words in your comments and make you look like an idiot. Thank You!