Film: The Duke Of Burgundy

The Pinch Of Love

If you were fortunate enough in 2012 to allow director Peter Strickland to burst into your psyche with his tale of psychological horror in the delightfully fulfilling sensory cinema experience of ‘Berberian Sound Studio’, you would have been eagerly awaiting his follow up sensual delight in the beautiful form of ‘The Duke Of Burgundy’. Encompassing a tale that we all deal with to greater or lesser degrees, in the real potential horror story of human relationships, in particular those in the midst of a possible spiralling demise, though most folk probably use slightly less bondage and safety words in their relationship consoling. Their loss eh.

Based in a somewhat idyllic fairytale world of an almost overwhelming (but very welcoming) richness of femininity (there are no male characters at all), beauty and luxuriant nature (slowing reclaiming/embracing all the buildings), this is the world of Gaia writ large in the sumptuous calligraphy of the moving image.

In such a gorgeous, yet full, seemingly chaotic dance of nature (love), such as it the apparent erratic flight patterns of butterflies (the movie title being a reference to a type of butterfly, and the beauty lays in the dance not the understanding), it is the actual study of nature at talks they frequent that brings in the only potential masculine traits of western science and analysis, trying to bring order to chaos (understanding love), in the form of structure, routine, discipline, and of course well polished leather boots and some splendid bondage knots.

Duke of Burgundy

This desire for order is an understandable approach to the apparently waning relationship of the beautifully youthful doe eyed Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) to her long-term partner, equally beautiful, but with far more experience in her eyes Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) as they try to get through a testing time in their relationship. And be in no doubt at all, that despite any of the visual dressing or subject matter (ordering ‘specialist’ beds) , this is a tale of two people very much in love, struggling to understand and maintain it. Their instinct knows it’s validity, but desire to adorn it with structure, or societal influenced analysis could destroy it. Something has to happen, but will the necessary metamorphosis birth the end?

It’s also both incredibly touching and very funny too, with both main characters putting truly mesmerising performances in both subtly and tenderness, where the most minute movement of an eye can bring folly, hope, or tears. Somewhat engrossingly surreal with strikingly vivid colours (washing underwear never looked so good), multiple layered imagery and as in Berberian Sound Studio, a delightfully mind altering use of sound.

With many potential influences/references in it’s somewhat lush 70’s look (particularly The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant 1972, of which, are the mannequins at the butterfly talks a nod to that movie and the ghosts of previous failed relationships?), there are moments of exquisite beauty all soundtracked to an equally ethereal soundscape with the music of Cat’s Eyes (Faris Badwan from The Horrors and composer Rachel Zeffira) to make it all one of the most unique, enjoyable, cinema experiences around for some time.

And as in the immortal words of Ian Curtis in Joy Division, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, or it has the capacity to (literally) bind us closer, just remember your release word.


The Duke Of Burgundy is out now.