Film Review: The Duke of Burgundy

Duke of Burgundy

Writer-director Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy is a visually rich, ponderous piece of cinema.Writer-director Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy is a visually rich, ponderous piece of cinema.

Entomologist Cynthia has a less than usual relationship with her partner Evelyn. The pair enjoy role play, with Evelyn keen to push the games further…

Peter Strickland’s film is an atmospheric and, for the most part, engaging drama. The beauty of The Duke of Burgundy is that it is unclear where the film is heading. This sense of mystery, of uncharted territory, is present for most of the duration.

The relationship between the protagonists is a complex one in The Duke of Burgundy. The levels of a power at play in this context is interesting. The film succinctly exhibits how this dynamic can change. The characters are fascinating because so little is revealed about them in the beginning of the film.

The world inhabited by The Duke of Burgundy keeps viewers on their toes. There is some familiarity to the environment presented, but Peter Strickland subverts this with some curious quirks. There are cutaway sequences which interrupts the mostly linear narrative. These are aesthetically pleasing, but not as engaging. The world presented in the narrative aspects of the film is more interesting. There are some breaks from normality which are never explained, but this adds to the quirkiness of The Duke of Burgundy.

Strickland’s film has a distinctive look. The importance of style is clear from The Duke of Burgundy‘s opening credits, where a nod to the film’s perfumer.  The distinct look is down to styling and costuming, with period dress employed to good effect. The art direction also adds to this, and is complimented by Cat’s Eyes’ soundtrack. Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’Anna have good chemistry as Cynthia and Evelyn.

The Duke of Burgundy may not have widespread appeal, but it is an edifying watch.

The Duke of Burgundy was screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2014.