Venus Talking

Nearly a year to the day after the world preem of "Paradiso --Seven Days With Seven Women" (which won a Silver Berlin Bear for its ensemble cast), prolific homeboy auteur Rudolph Thome is back with "Venus Talking," another in a series of nuanced dramas that plumb the inscrutable depths of love and lust.

With:
With: Sabine Bach, Roger Tebb, Vladimir Weigl, Guntram Brattia, Andre Meyer, Rolf-Peter Kahl, Isabelle Hindersin, Nicole Berger, Nora Hanke, Markus Perschmann.

Nearly a year to the day after the world preem of “Paradiso –Seven Days With Seven Women” (which won a Silver Berlin Bear for its ensemble cast), prolific homeboy auteur Rudolph Thome is back with “Venus Talking,” another in a series of nuanced dramas that plumb the inscrutable depths of love and lust. Again mixing emotional combustibility with the coincidences provided by personal-computer technologies, helmer has whipped up a provocative, sumptuous, widescreen confection that could finally earn him the attention he deserves outside Germany. “Venus Talking” should have distribs doing same.

At a dinner party in the courtyard of their Brandenburg farmhouse, novelist Venus Siebenberg (Sabine Bach) and her schoolteacher husband, Max (Roger Tebb), are celebrating the undertaking of her newest novel, “Venus Talking.”

Publisher Hans Neumann (Vladimir Weigl) announces that the writing of the book, in a glass-walled aerie above Berlin’s Spree river, will be captured live by a Web-cam installed by computer whiz Herbert (Rolf-Peter Kahl). Film producer Bernhard Zickzack (Andre Meyer) dances enthusiastically with Venus, while her son Thorsten (Markus Perschmann) sneaks off with g.f. Isabelle (Kathleen Fiedler), Neumann’s daughter.

Driving to Berlin, Venus wastes no time in picking up soulful artist Fabrizio (Guntram Brattia), with whom she begins a seemingly earnest affair. Meanwhile, Isabelle’s impromptu striptease for Thorsten via Web-cam spurs the boy to ask Max for a device of his own, which he then uses to watch mom work.

Hans and Bernhard have a falling out over terms of their movie deal, prompting the conniving, lovesick producer to end up dead drunk in Venus’ bed.

Unbeknownst to all, Herbert has installed a second, hidden Web- cam over that very berth. When Thorsten logs on and sees Venus talking to Bernhard the morning after, he immediately assumes infidelity and runs to tell Max.

When Venus discovers the hidden Web-cam, she smashes it, breaks up with Fabrizio, finishes the book and heads home.

Message of technology’s double-edged sword and its relation to love is a topic Thome has been pondering in his movies for years, particularly in the “Forms of Love” trilogy of “The Microscope” (1988), “The Philosopher” (aka “3 Women in Love”) and “Seven Women” (both 1989).

Here it becomes as much a matter of chance as judgment, as the unblinking eye of the Web-cam is incapable of explaining the images it transmits. That the humans are by and large just as unable to articulate their often impulsive actions is but one of the numerous and tantalizingly murky moral messages proffered by pic.

The ambiguities of Venus’ character are central to story’s success, and in thesp Bach (also in “Paradiso”), Thome has found the appealingly precise mixture of guile and goodness necessary to pull it off.

Ensemble is fine in support, although more about Herbert and his motivations, at the expense of some ultimately unimportant secondary characters, would have added a welcome dimension to plot.

Tech credits are impeccable, with Carsten Thiele’s glossy widescreen lensing creating a world of soothing artifice behind which the human drama occurs.

Venus Talking

Germany

Production: A Moana-Film production. (International sales: Cine-International, Munich.) Produced, directed, written by Rudolph Thome.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Carsten Thiele; editor, Karin Nowarra; music, Wolfgang Bohmer; art director, Reinhard Deitmann; costumes, Gioia Raspe; sound, Frank Bubenzer. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (New German Films), Feb. 11, 2001. Running time: 95 MIN.

With: With: Sabine Bach, Roger Tebb, Vladimir Weigl, Guntram Brattia, Andre Meyer, Rolf-Peter Kahl, Isabelle Hindersin, Nicole Berger, Nora Hanke, Markus Perschmann.

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