The Duke of Burgundy Recap

DoB Three Panel Maroon

Graphic by Julian House

This is a recap with every spoiler imaginable, if you’re looking for a review sans-spoilers, click here.

I was originally going to write this in a way that was similar to my recap/review of Secretary, which included notes from the DVD commentary by the writer and the director. Peter Strickland both wrote and directed Duke of Burgundy and I was looking forward to some illumination on certain things. For the most part I didn’t get what I was looking for.

Strickland is a director’s director. He said in an interview that he’s not an actor’s director and that was no understatement. His references and homages were all for films I had never heard of. I’m not a cinephile, so fair dues. A decent amount of time is spent talking about technical aspects of filmmaking. If you know/care nothing of that sort of thing it’s rather like listening to people talk about complex maths or the pros and cons of one Pantone shade of blue versus the very next shade lighter. With great enthusiasm.

Strickland is also extremely British. He has a terminal case of HughGrantitis. The man never met a sentence he didn’t need to re-start fourteen times.

What I’m trying to say is: he spoke nearly the entire commentary but didn’t say much that would enhance this recap.

I love your film, Mr Strickland, it’s in my top five, if not my number one, but wow, sir, your commentary made me cry.

[Still, anything from the commentary that was useful will be in brackets.]

*My personal thoughts/comments will follow an asterisk.

–Obvious places where deleted scenes included in the DVD extras would have gone will be between emdashes–

At the end of this recap will be information on DVD extras like deleted scenes, stills galleries and such.

Obviously, all of the spoilers below and because it’s a long piece, I’m putting the rest of the post behind a break.

Before I get to it, a note about images in this post. The gifs are from the inimitable Governors, Captains & Officers [source link now dead], and screenshots are mine. I hadn’t intended to do as many as I wound up making, but I discovered the gallery feature (after using WordPress for five years) so there are hundreds of images. Prepare yourself.

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The Duke of Burgundy

DoB Landscape Boot

Graphic by Julian House

This review is free of spoilers, though in some ways this film is better if you know nothing about it going in. It may sound odd, but I recommend not reading this review, or any review. Just watch the film—it’s incredible.

A young woman, Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna) arrives at her employer’s house—Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen)—a cold, demanding woman who makes her stay late at work and punishes her severely when she makes mistakes.

In the next scene we find out the women are lovers who play sadomasochistic sorts of games. This isn’t a spoiler—we learn this in the second scene of the film.

The women go through their normal lives—the older one is a lepidopterist—and they attend talks at the library, as well as do scenes at home.

But all is not well in kinky-land.

And then the end happened and I was: Whaaaaaa?

Also by Julian House

Also by Julian House

I know that seems like a short plot synopsis but it really is better to know less rather than more. Also, the film is more of a character-study than plot-based.

The Duke of Burgundy was written and directed by Peter Strickland in the 20-teens, but feels like it was based on a 1970s novel. In an interview Strickland says it was an homage to 70s films, and that’s apparent in both look and feel. The cinematography (by Nicholas D. Knowland) is lush and luxurious.

The setting is somewhere non-specific in Europe and the time could be any time after the 70s. (It was filmed in Hungary and Budapest). The soundtrack is by Cat’s Eyes and compliments the film perfectly.

The Duke of Burgundy is about what happens when Dommes and subs don’t negotiate what they both want. (And something called topping from the bottom.)

There are some trippy sex scenes and music cues that are very 70s. And there’s an entire sequence roughly three-quarters of the way through that’s that sort of LSD weird-out sort of thing you’d see in the 70s.

Even though it’s surreal and artistic, it’s a more realistic depiction of a BDSM relationship than Secretary, as it shows how far the fantasy is from the—often boring or hilarious—reality.

Basically it’s my favourite film now. 5/5