17 December 2014

Venus in Furs, by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

Perhaps it is shameful to admit it, but I think this is one of the rare cases where I liked the movie better. Roman Polanski's recent movie, to be more exact, which is not a straightforward adaptation of the text, but rather, a story of a theater director auditioning an actress for a part in his adaptation of the text (meta meta, boioioioing). I really liked the movie, and it reinvigorated a long dormant intention to read the actual book (I once heard Malynne Sternstein talk about an inherent masochism of Eastern Europeans, partly in reference to this text, and I've been intrigued by the notion,  and tracing its manifestations -- there are many -- ever since). Indeed, the book is a curious little work, full of twists and turns and an intriguing late Romantic blend of cynicism and idealism. The problem is, the film is such an interesting perspective on the material, subtly illuminating both the continuities between the book's time and our own and also critiquing the story, both as a relic of a past time AND as an example of what seems to be a rather timeless tradition of portraying women. The book certainly provides ample fodder for the inquiry into gender inflected power dynamics of sexual and romantic relationships, and teasingly gestures towards  some ideas about the relationship between art and life, specifically in relation to love and passion, but the movie develops all these lines of inquiry much more fully. Plus, it's funnier.

But I recommend them both.

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