Article Title:Review: The Duke of Burgundy
Category:Movies
Author or Credit:Craig Young
Published on:27th July 2015 - 09:55 am
Published by:GayNZ.com
Internet Archive link:https://web.archive.org/web/20170423044601/http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/20/article_17117.php
NDHA link:http://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/ArcAggregator/arcView/frameView/IE28141248/http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/20/article_17117.php
Note that the National Library of New Zealand (NDHA) website uses both cookies and frames. The first time you click on a link it first may take you to the archived front page of gaynz.com. Close the window and try again. This is because the NDHA website uses cookies and you cannot access an indiviual page without visiting the front page first
Story ID:17117
Text:The Duke of Burgundy is bound (...) to be a controversial entry in this year's New Zealand International Film Festival. So, what is this film about, apart from lesbians, lepidoptery and BDSM? Mind you, it's very tasteful BDSM, without any female nudity at all. It appears to be set in an alternate universe where men don't exist, at a butterfly scientists conference and focuses on the submission and dominance relationship between two women, the older Cynthia (Sidse Babet Knudsen) and the younger Evelyn (Chiara D'Anna). Studying lepidoptery under Cynthia, Evelyn works as a maid to make ends meet, while Cynthia has strict hygiene expectations and 'punishes' Evelyn if her standard of work is less than optimal. But all is not as it seems, and the older woman isn't as dominant as she first appears. Evelyn emerges as a power bottom in this relationship, writing instructions and scripts for their routine couplings. Evelyn is a demanding submissive and is cross at Cynthia for trying to please her with a new inbuilt bed, constructed by a (female) carpenter. Once the bed/trunk is constructed, Evelyn demands to be locked in during the evening, causing back problems for poor Cynthia. Things come to a head over the matter of Evelyn's birthday cake, when Cynthia ignores her sub's safeword. Later, Cynthia catches Evelyn polishing the boots of another lepidoptery lecturer, which she regards as tantamount to infidelity. However, at the film's end, the two women are seen going through exactly the same routines in their erotic play as before. The film was staged in Hungary, and the male producer, Peter Strickland, is from the United Kingdom. So, is this yet another straight man's voyeuristic boring fantasy about lesbian exoticism? It would seem not, as there aren't any male characters in this film, which renders feminist cinematic theories about the "male gaze" somewhat difficult to sustain, given that this often focuses on male characters as relays within the storyline that are supposed to fix women into male-dominated social roles and behaviours. However, there seems to be some attention to the rules of play for consensual adult BDSM sexuality evident within this film. Evelyn is less submissive than she seems, given that she orchestrates the scenes and compels the ostensible top, Cynthia, to follow her routine. This seems to be a healthy BDSM scenario, although warning notes intrude when Cynthia ignores Evelyn's safeword. However, this is over the matter of cake, as opposed to a particular context in which real injury might be caused to the bottom-although leather ethicists might disagree with this, citing the principle that safewords are there precisely to render BDSM consensual. Yet, when the story ends, Cynthia and Evelyn are still locked within their BDSM routines, as if in stasis- nothing seems to have changed in terms of the events of the storyline and their implications. The scenario is richly furnished and shaded, akin to the hamearis lucina (Duke of Burgundy) butterfly itself. So, what are we left with? No-one is really hurt during this film, Evelyn the submissive has most of the erotic power and events move in a circle, finally returning to a stasis point where the relationship hasn't really changed. This is not a 'realist' film, but an arthouse movie. The two lesbians depicted could as easily be two men, so is this a film about fetishism rather than the individual sexual orientation of its ostensible participants? It would seem so. Fetishism is about returning to the scene of the incident or event that prompted the fetishist to eroticise a particular object, interpersonal interaction or sequence of events. After a while, such re-enactments may lose their ability to arouse, resulting in the need for inventive variations, albeit premised on the same theme. Still, the cinematography, storyline and characters do the task. One wonders why those 'professional' wowsers, Upper Hutt's Society for Promotion of Community Standards, have weighed in with their prescriptive, antiquated and subjective religious social conservative 'community standards' over this particular film. The Duke of Burgundy is screening at the New Zealand International Film Festival Recommended: Wikipedia/Duke of Burgundy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duke_of_Burgundy Nikola Grodanovitch: "The Duke of Burgundy is a surreal, sublime knockout" Indiewire: 10.09.2014:http://blogs.indiewire. com/theplaylist/tiff-review-peter-stricklands-the-duke-of-burgundy-is-a-surreal-sublime-knock-out-20140910 Stephanie Zacharek: "Review: The Duke of Burgundy is a Delicious Evocation of Seventies Erotica" Village Voice: 20.01.2015: http://www.villagevoice. com/2015-01-21/film/the-duke-of-burgundy/ Chuck Bowen: "The Duke of Burgundy" Slant: 25.01.2015:http://www. slantmagazine.com/film/review/the-duke-of-burgundy Craig Young - 27th July 2015    
Disclaimer:This page displays a version of the GayNZ.com article with all formatting and images removed. It was harvested automatically and some text content may not have been fully captured correctly: access this content at your own risk. A copy of the full article is available (off-line) at the Lesbian and Gay Archives of New Zealand. This online version is provided for personal research and review and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of PrideNZ.com. If you have queries or concerns about this article please email us
Reproduction note:Just before GayNZ.com closed in May 2017, the website owners wrote this article about reproducing content from the website: "our work has always been available for glbti people to use and all we ask is that you not plagiarise it... if you use it anywhere please attribute it to GayNZ.com and where there is an authors name attached please acknowledge that writer."