BDSM/FETISH films, ‘The Duke of Burgundy’
However I did go to see ‘The Duke of Burgundy’, quite a few of my friends were raving about it, one of them went to see it 3 times in quick succession as they so loved the combination of the films aesthetic and the theme. So it was a grey rainy Thursday when I could have been paying attention to admin, but decided instead to go and see a film which promised subject matter both sensually erotic and exploring Dominance and submission.
Watching the opening credits, R18 ‘fetish themed film’ and eating chocolate, I wondered how many films begin with crediting the clothing and lingerie design, the make up and hair stylist, and the film’s perfume ahead of the cinematographer. Is this usual?
All of ‘The Duke of Burgundy’ in it’s completeness follows the aesthetic of being filmed to look like a mid-European porn film from the 1970’s. Unfortunately for Me it’s not a look I relish. I kept thinking how awful the character Evelyn’s hair looked, plus as a ‘submissive’ character there was something I found immediately irritating about her, that feeling made much more sense as the film played out.
Of course if you love the look – I admit some of the lingerie was gorgeous – the film will be a feast for you. Far more interesting was the subject matter it explored: power dynamics, ego… how often and easily Dominance and submission can become skewed. The struggle between strength of desire and who is calling the shots, the curious paradox of what submission or Dominance might actually entail. Or indeed the story of a co-dependent relationship played out in tight knee high leather boots, stern starched high necked blouses, tight pencil skirts and lush boudoir interiors. Fascinating in many ways and achingly accurate in it’s depiction of such.
Some nights C puts E into a black wooden chest, binds her with ropes, shuts the lid and locks it. Part of a moth’s Latin name, ‘Pinastri’, is the safe word that will release E. It also sounds close to ‘Be nasty!’, the command that E gives C when they are lie in bed and she wants to be aroused by C’s talk and pleasured with her hand. E may be the one who gets bound and locked in, but it’s C who’s painfully and exactly pinned down like one of their beautiful specimen moths or butterflies, helpless in her need to please. You watch as she becomes ever more dissatisfied, unnoticed by E. When C hurts her back and gets no care, she suddenly flips. She switches into a true domme mode, roles reverse and things start coming apart.
However this is Hollywood, and true love will triumph ! Well, actually it was shot in Hungary with BFI and Film 4 money and written and directed by a British man, Peter Strickland, but the same rule applies. Showing how superb they are, the two actresses repeat the first role playing scene, now as people whose emotions no longer enable them to maintain any pretence, unable to hold to their scripts. The ‘domme’ breaks down in tears followed by her ‘sub’ and they collapse into each other’s arms. Your reviewer gets that choking feeling. Oh, to be a cherished, tortured plaything ! It’s still on at Curzon cinemas, then at the LGBT Film Festival and the NFT. Enjoy !’