The Duke of Burgundy is a rare film that is able to handle a provocative subject without being a gratuitous skin flick, bait and switch tease, or schlocker.
The cinematography, production design, and sound editing do a great job of pulling you into the world of a BDSM relationship between two women. Wide-angle lens capture the beauty of a rural region somewhere in Europe. Detailed production design brings a sophisticated household to life. Lighting and sound design heighten provocative BDSM acts.
Simple cues like popping soap bubbles, trickling water, and the sound of pacing heels against a carpet take on a whole new meaning once you find out what’s really happening.
Fortunately, the movie doesn’t lose sight of the story despite all the sophisticated visuals. The smart and well-written plot gradually develops to reveal more about the relationship by relying on the dynamics between its characters. While everything is done with seriousness and poise (explicit action happens outside the frame) there are also funny moments.
It’s not mentioned how long Cynthia and Evelyn’s erotic ritual has been going on, but it’s running out of steam. Cynthia wants a conventional relationship but Evelyn still yearns for the routine.
The leads deliver stellar performances to convey the breakdown of their dynamic. Sidse Babett Knudsen showed Cynthia’s growing restlessness and anguish without saying a word as the act of humiliation and pain becomes real. Chiara D’Anna is very convincing at portraying Evelyne’s duality that you wouldn’t see the plot twist coming your way. Fatma Mohamed plays a small but amusing role as a fetish carpenter.
The overall result is transfixing erotica with an affecting love story.
There’s little here about the couple’s lives outside of their BDSM relationship, but that is the point of the movie. Their entire lives have revolved around a ritual that has pinned them down. In the end, it seems that the couple has come up with a compromise.
The Duke of Burgundy is a smart, funny, sensual, melancholic romance between two middle-aged women. More than just a kinky love story, it explores how power and submission are continuously reversed in a relationship.
Duke of Burgundy
The Duke of Burgundy proves that erotic cinema can be compelling, thanks to a smart script and sensual imagery.