First Hit: Very well acted film about an audition for a play based on masochistic fantasies.
This Roman Polanski film was very well made.
I loved the opening shot where the camera tracks down the middle of a street in an unknown French town on a rainy day. Opposite to a run-down theater the camera abruptly turns right and moves directly to the entryway, pauses long enough for the audience to read that auditions are being held for a play, the doors open and we move down to the stage where the director Thomas (Mathieu Amalric) is taking on the phone.
He’s speaking with someone he knows and complaining bitterly about the type of people who have auditioned for the female lead. In walks a woman dressed in black leather who wants to audition for the woman lead. Vanda (Emmanuelle Seigner) pleads with Thomas for the chance and he keeps rejecting her. Slowly she convinces him by putting on the perfect dress for the lead, adjusts the stage lighting, and walks onto the stage. He agrees to do the first 3 pages.
He prompts her parts but she tells him to really put something into his prompts – "act the part" she demands. The moment Vanda begins to speak, Thomas (and you as the viewer of this film) knows she’s the one. They go back and forth of being in character to not being in character. Together they make staging changes as they get deeper and deeper into the characters. He explains that Sado-Masochism came from a combination of names; Marquis de Sade who practiced sexual sadism and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch who practiced masochism and wrote novels about it. The play they are doing comes from one of those novels.
Amalric was amazing as he transforms from the director to being directed. Seigner was sublime as she rules this film from the beginning to the end as well as ruling the director. Polanski wrote the screenplay and directed this film and it shows the amazing skill he has at creating and directing dialog based films (see “Carnage” as another example).
Overall: I really liked this film because the actors' ability to subtly move from being the play’s characters to the film’s characters was fantastic.