This week the folks over at Volta got in touch with me to see if I'd like to watch a film and run a bit of a competition to celebrate the release of a new film (details below). The Duke of Burgundy is a fascinating, dark erotic tale set somewhere in Europe at some point during the 20th century, and centres around 2 women in a strange BDSM relationship that isn't always as it looks. Visually the film is a triumph. Every shot is like a haunting Vanity Fair shoot. As one of our main characters, Cynthia, studies moths and butterflies, the insect motif is heavily woven into the visual and audio design and works on different levels as lush metaphors throughout. Also it's nice to have women in STEM fields represented on screen. I cannot speak too much of the plot without giving the whole thing away, but I can assure you that you do not need to be a lesbian or bisexual woman to enjoy the film. However a love of vintage fashion is a must.
The visual style is reminiscent of Steven Shainberg's 2002 film Secretary, but far more detailed and fleshed out. But that is where the comparison ends. The Duke of Burgundy does not pathologise it's characters for the type of relationship they're in, but rather uses the BDSM aspects to reflect the types of struggles we all sometimes face in relationships. To sum it up, it feels like Peter Strickland has created a Lars Von Trier, Lesbian, BDSM version of the Walworth Farce. As our 2 protagonists relive their play again and again, the true story begins to unfold. It makes for a hypnotic watch.
The sex scenes are mysterious and hazy, allowing the viewers' imaginations to drift along and fill in the blanks. It beautifully utilises what filmmakers have been doing in the horror genre for decades - show just enough. The best monsters are always the ones left unseen.
This mysterious hyper-stylised world is one you can get totally lost but never feel completely comfortable in. There's a constant uneasiness and tension that twists and turns it's way through the characters from start to finish, but set against such beautiful surroundings, it's makes for an intoxicating drama.
My only criticism of the film is that it often takes itself far too seriously. There was one visual metaphor towards the end that was so glaringly obvious and ridiculous, it had me in stitches when I saw it. It was slow in places, favouring long, drawn out shots that seemed to worship the art direction rather than move the story along. That said, if you're a vintage-phile who loves spending time in the Natural History Museum, you mightn't ever want this film to end.
I would like to thank Volta who sent The Duke of Burgundy onto me to watch, and to celebrate it's release this weekend, we've joined forces to give away 3 on-demand rentals to 3 lucky Tweeters! All you have to do is follow both myself (@sexsiopa) and Volta (@Volta) and either Tweet at us about the competition or Retweet one of mine. A winner will be chosen at the end of each day this weekend!