The Duke of Burgundy
Directed by Peter Strickland
Cornerhouse, 21 February 2015
Set in a world like yet unlike our own, The Duke of Burgundy is a study of a BDSM relationship threatened by love: Cynthia and Evelyn are mistress and maid, and lovers too.
She, Evelyn, the younger woman and ostensibly the submissive partner, is the one who is actually directing their role play. And Cynthia begins to feel that Evelyn loves the things they do rather than she herself. Being worshipped can be darned dehumanising at times.
There are no men in the film at all (are they extinct?) and the two women belong to an Institute that studies butterflies; women young and old attend lectures comparing the attributes of different species. In the women’s home butterflies occupy a prominent place too, displayed under glass and in frames on the walls of Cynthia’s study. And there are no computers either: Cynthia types her papers on an old-style manual typewriter. All of which makes for a steampunk/slipstream feel, evoking a world as strange and disquieting as can be found in Nina Allan’s A Thread of Truth or Nike Sulway’s Rupetta.
By the end, Cynthia and Evelyn’s relationship is stagnant but for the moment intact. However, strains are beginning to show.
A beautiful and enigmatic film.