Seduction: The Cruel Woman

Inspired by the novel Venus in Furs (1870) by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
Germany 1985, 35 mm, 84 min, Color, in German with English subtitles. (Film and DVD rated X in Germany)

Available on DVD via First Run Features


Wanda is a dominatrix who runs a gallery in a building on the Hamburg waterfront, where audiences pay for the privilege of watching her humiliate her slaves. She is a business woman who smashes sexual stereotypes and social taboos with icy self-possession and an enigmatic smile. As artist she specializes in the staging of elaborate S & M fantasies and her affairs transgress the usual boundaries of personal and professional life. Along the way she leaves her German lesbian lover, a shoe fetishist, for an American trainee, and does more than step on the toes of the male performer who has broken the rules of the master-slave relationship by falling in love with her.


Mechithild Grossmann (Wanda) // Udo Kier (Gregor) // Sheila McLaughlin (Justine) // Carola Regnier (Caren) // Georgette Dee (Friederike) // Peter Weibel (Journalist) // Judith Flex (Judith) // Barbara Ossenkopp (Leila) // Danila Ziegler (Mother) // George Lanann (Old Man) // Jürg Schlachter (Young Man)


Cinematography: Elfi Mikesch // Gaffer: Peter Werner, Wolfgang Kluge // Set Construction: Reinhard Twardy, Dieter Wertz, Dietrich zur Nedden // Sound: Cäsar Gremmler // Special Effects: Reinhard Twardy // Art Director: Manfred Blösser // Props: Birgit Ruttkowski // Costumes: Anne Jud // Make-up: Rolf Baumann // Editor: Renate Merck // Sound Mixer: Richard Borowski // Production Manager: Madeleine Backhaus // Location Manager: Hildegard Westbeld // Supervising Producer: Renee Gundelach // Assistant Director: Margit Czenki // Written, Produced, and Directed by Elfi Mikesch and Monika Treut


Berlin // Chicago // Creteil // Edinburgh // London // Los Angeles // Montreal // San Francisco // Toronto and many others


A very Germanic, darkly humorous attempt to transform sado-masochism into performance art …. boldly composed tableaux vivants. It is compelling in its insights as well as in its originality. Kevin Thomas, Los AngelesTimes

Seduction is a stunner, this is SM by Avedon, outfits by Dior. Marcia Pally, Film Comment

Sacher-Masoch meets Andy Warhol. Los Angeles Reader’s Guide

The extravagantly beautiful imagery produces an attraction that is hard to resist and makes SEDUCTION: THE CRUEL WOMAN one of the most mysterious films of German Cinema. Roland Keller, Cinema, Hamburg

…. entirely superfluous and annoying! Hans Messias, Catholic Filmservice

Treut’s first feature is most notable in being an early precursor to the American trend of pornographic productions by and for women. While the film itself is not pornographic in the traditional sense, it investigates the arena of masochism and establishes what has become known as a masochistic aesthetic, as opposed to the sadistic aesthetic commonly accorded to Hollywood narratives. A masochistic aesthetic is one that favors suspense, elaborate and ornate production design, a non-linear narrative structure, and a cold and cruel woman. Think of Marlene Dietrich and any Josef von Sternberg set. Holly Willis, Visions Magazine

This mixture of toilet language and eroticism is unbearable for any public. Friedrich Zimmermann, German Minister of the Interior, comment on the screenplay on withdrawing the funding, Munich 1984.

This is the most sophisticated lesbian film I’ve ever seen, carefully stylized in the color-coordinated mode of the late Fassbinder. Or like Helmut Newton photography come to life. C. Carr, The Village Voice, New York

…. probably the only intelligent inside view of consensual sado-masochism ever put on film. Andrew Dowler, NOW, Toronto