Venus in Fur
By Jeffrey Anderson,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Play-based Polanski drama has strong sex talk, language.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie is basically a story of characters being dominated, whether willingly or unwillingly. It might be good for a discussion about the dark side of human nature, but no lessons are learned, and no conclusions are drawn.
Positive Role Models
The characters here are devious, self-centered, and sometimes flat-out mean.
Violence & Scariness
In one scene, a character is tied up and left alone, but mostly for humiliation. Also arguing and verbal confrontation. There's a description of a boy being whipped by a birch switch and an imaginary re-enactment.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A woman's breast is shown in two shots; the first is very brief. In the second, she's naked and dancing with a large piece of cloth. She lets a breast show for a moment. The woman wears suggestive costumes. But the biggest issue is the movie's general discussion of sex, specifically the fetish of being submissive and being dominated. Characters discuss S&M and porn. There's a great deal of innuendo, flirting, and suggestion. A large, tall cactus leftover from an earlier play is mentioned as a phallic symbol; a woman makes playful thrusting motions against it. During the end credits, several classic paintings of nude women, topless and full-frontal, are shown.
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The movie is in French with English subtitles; words seen include "f--k," "ass," "c--t," "bitch," "s--t," "d--k," "butt," "testicles," "idiot," and "hell."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Venus in Fur is a two-character drama from director Roman Polanski based on a Tony-winning play. It deals heavily with sex, fetish, and innuendo. There's some brief female nudity (breasts, plus both breasts and full-frontal in glimpses of classic paintings), but the bulk of the movie's sex is in the form of strong suggestion, flirting, and discussion. Though the movie is in French with English subtitles, language is quite strong, with "f--k," "s--t," "c--t," and "d--k" showing up in the translation. There's also some brief violence: One character ties up another, and characters argue. The movie is significant because it was directed by Polanski, but for most teens, the material is probably too strong, and, frankly, too talky. There are no real lessons learned or conclusions drawn, and the only thing to really discuss is the dark side of human nature.
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Venus in Fur
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What's the Story?
Playwright Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) is preparing to direct his adaptation of Leopold von Sacher-Masoch's novel. It's been a long day, he's seen a batch of unpromising and annoying actresses, and he's exhausted. Out of the rain walks Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner), late, wet, and popping gum. She seems all wrong, but she persuades Thomas to give her a chance to audition for the part, a beautiful woman -- also called Vanda -- who inspires a man to become her sex slave. Surprisingly, the actress seems to know the role extremely well, not only having brought costumes and props, but also having researched beyond just her lines. Thomas begins to think that he's found his perfect actress, but who is she, exactly, and where has she come from?
Is It Any Good?
Venus in Fur never forgets to be playful and fluid, always moving, shifting gears, and surprising. Throughout his career, from his feature debut Knife in the Water (1962) to Carnage (2011), director Roman Polanski has specialized in wringing psychological tension from just a few characters who fall to pieces within limited spaces. In VENUS IN FUR, that place happens to be in the theater, and because it's based on a play by David Ives, some viewers may find the movie too stagy or stagebound.
But Polanski doesn't use the theater setting like a stage, and it moves very much like a movie -- a highly skilled one at that. Polanski uses all the lights, space, moods, and props available to him, including the leftover sets from a prior play (a musical version of Stagecoach). The movie isn't necessarily titillating or erotic, which may disappoint viewers. It's more about the psychology and nature of fetish; it's mostly innuendo.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about Venus in Fur's sex content. What's shown, and what's talked about? Is the movie suggestive or alluring, or is it simply interesting? What's the difference?
How does the movie end? What does it want you to be thinking about when it's done? What's its point?
In real life, director Roman Polanski was involved in a notorious sex scandal. Does that information change the presentation of the movie? If so, how?
Why do you think Polanski chooses to end the movie with classic nude paintings?
- In theaters: June 20, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: October 14, 2014
- Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner
- Director: Roman Polanski
- Studios: IFC Entertainment, Sundance Selects
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: June 2, 2023
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