The Duke of Burgundy: a short review

10Mar15

maid2While the world was obsessing about 50 Shades back in January another BDSM mainstream movie slipped under the radar. The far more inteligent and stylish The Duke of Burgundy is a British drama film written and directed by Peter Strickland.

The whole look and feel of the movie is retro 1960s and early 1970s psychedelic sexploitation. Even the music is faux Emmanuel or Blitis.
I have to warn you that there is neither much nudity nor a single spanking in this film and the drama is framed around classic BDSM service submission scene playing with hints of water-sports and bondage.

All the characters in the film are women who seem to occupy a timeless stylised 1970s village somewhere in rural France. Although the movie itself was shot mostly in Hungry and the dialogue is entirely English. Most of the ladies of the town are dressed to kill and have an abiding obsession with lepidoptera and BDSM…

The moths and butterflies of the movie of course are a mixed metaphor for the beauty that is drawn to a flame and then ends up pinned and mounted.
I was put in mind of Robert Coover’s Spanking the Maid and indeed the submission is not only ritualised but largely directed (as it turns out) by the maid herself.
The scene opens with a bike ride through a forest and the arrival of a pretty maid at the grand house of an older woman. The woman is sharply dressed and dour to the point of arrogant rudeness.

“You are late,” she says sternly.

“Did I tell you that you could sit down?” she continues.

After several indignities and the presumably usual daily chores are done the maid is told she will do the laundry, a task that will be done by hand even though there is a machine. Of course this goes awry as a garment is missed and the mistress is not satisfied.

“No it is not good enough now you will punished,” she is told.

The punishment is not seen and later in the film we get a hint of why the mistress is continuously drinking glasses of water.

It is an intelligent film that explores the intense emotions of submission at the same time the very real pressures and challenges of being a dominatrix. But it is done from the point of view of those already familiar with the hedonism of a BDSM lifestyle. To the outsider it may appear to form of dysfunction, which indeed it is. These players are trapped playing out the same games day after day in a kind of subDom Brigadoon. A world where unfaithfulness takes the form of cleaning another women’s boots and a leather-clad blonde goes door-to-door measuring the girls for a ‘prison bed’ or a ‘human toilet.’

At one point in the story the Mistress rebels and changes the game. To my mind following this angle would have been far more rewarding and more true to my life, but motivated by love and fear of loss, this fading beauty is soon drawn back to play the little brats game.

The maid, who ironically only comes across as a brat when she is out of character in the story, is played by Chiara D’Anna and the Mistress by Sidse Babett Knudsen. The whole thing is beautifully shot and is well worth a look. But it is not a film for those who only like car crashes and spanking.



2 Responses to “The Duke of Burgundy: a short review”

  1. I’ve never heard of this movie. I would be interested in checking it out. I love your succinct sum up at the end “This is not a film for those who only like car crashes and spanking” a good thing for people to be aware of!

    • 2 DJ

      I also failed to mention that there is face-sitting – a mainstream challenge to the law if ever there was one and the censors passed it for general release.

      Although personally I would give this a 15 rating.


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