"I thought the text was hilarious"
by Fabien Lemercier
- Back in competition in Cannes, Polish director Roman Polanski talks about Venus in Fur
Accompanied by his actress Emmanuelle Seigner and actor Mathieu Amalric, director of photography Pawel Edelman, composer Alexandre Desplat, screenwriter and author of the original play David Ives, and producers Alain Sarde and Robert Benmussa, a smiling Roman Polanski gave a few indications to the international press about Venus in Fur [+see also:
interview: Roman Polanski
film profile], unveiled in competition at the 66th Cannes Film Festival.
Why did you choose a theatre for your film "in camera"?
Roman Polanski : When I read David Ives's play, I though the text was hilarious and I knew it had to be adapted for the cinema. It is set in an audition room. But in France, unlike in the United States and particularly in New York, auditions are often held in theatres. And as I grew up in a theatre, in Poland, with the leading role in a play which was my first contact with an empty theatre, I thought it would be the ideal backcloth for the story. We had the theatre in the film specially built, which made it possible to move around: we didn't have any feeling of claustrophobia as when you're shut away in the same place. I wanted a theatre that was a bit dilapidated, a bit decrepit, not a magnificent theatre where this type of show or director would never have been given the time of day.
What was the main challenge in this adaptation ?
With only two people in a play, you run the risk of boring the spectator. It was rather delicate. The audience also has to be kept in suspense throughout the entire play, which is a perfectly natural challenge. I was really excited about confronting this particular problem. The origins of the text are, however, of no real interest, what matters is the result. Whether it comes from a book, a play or a horse, it doesn't matter. If it's a good script, it's a good script, and this one is extraordinary. That always seems strange to the actors, as you're not the character yet you assimilate it more and more, and you become it. And you're surprised to realise that you can suddenly make suggestions about modifying this or that aspect of the text. Because you are the text, you have totally absorbed it.
What attracted you to the idea of having two actors in the same space?
It had been a dream of mine for a very long time. In my first film (Ed. Knife in the Water), there were only three characters. Two characters, that was a real challenge. I studied at cinema school, and students like challenges. This text allowed me to take it on. And I don't see any difficulty in making this kind of film.
Did Emmanuelle Seigner surprise you with her performance?
When I read the script, I said to myself: this is something for Emmanuelle. But in order for her to express it the way I wanted, it had to be in French and shot in France. Once she had assimilated the text, she really amazed me. And yet she wasn't all that enthusiastic when I had her read the play in English, I had to push her a little.
Why did you agree to participate in the competition ?
I've been coming to Cannes since the time I was a student in cinema school. Of course, I had much more fun when I wasn't well-known because I could walk around the streets without being bothered. Every young man who wants to make a movie finds the reasons here to keep on working, it's very exciting. Later on, you win awards, in Cannes or elsewhere. My first experience in competition in Cannes with The Tenant was a disaster, the film was very poorly received, it was humiliating. When I learnt that I had won the Palme d’Or with The Pianist, it was an exceptional moment and it would be hypocritical to say that it meant nothing to me. When you show a movie here, you have to be in competition, you have to have a sporting spirit, and I'm not going to say that because I've already won the Palme d’Or I'm no longer interested in it.
(Translated from French)