Silent J’s review published on Letterboxd:
When I usually think of the Duke of Burgundy, the first thing that springs to mind is the guy from King Lear. I never thought I'd start associating any Duke of Burgundy with lesbians, S&M, and butterflies, but surprise surprise, I prefer the latter way more than I ever could the former.
This movie is about two women who roleplay the same act everyday whilst battling for control in the relationship.
Sounds simple, doesn't it?
The Duke of Burgundy is anything but.
There's a very old school, retro 70's vibe to the movie from the moment the opening credits rolls. In fact, this whole movie feels like it would have fit right in during the 60's or 70's era of film if filmmakers were allowed to make erotic films like this. Kind of like how Far From Heaven would have fit right in during the 50's if 50's filmmakers were allowed to make films about interracial relationships and homosexuality. The opening does feel like an old school flick from the 70's, but as time went on, it morphed itself into a truly one of a kind beast in it's own class; sorta like a butterfly.
Chiara D’Anna and Sidse Babett Knudsen both do such a marvelous job respectively playing the younger Evelyn and the older Cynthia. While it appears that Cynthia assumes the dominant position in the bedroom, it's actually Evelyn who dominants the entire relationship. Evelyn writes down little scripts for Cynthia to memorize and act out exactly how she writes them and Evelyn is the one who gives most of the orders, even if those orders include how Cynthia should order and "punish" her. It's clear that the more she does these acts, Cynthia just wants a normal relationship, but Evelyn is the one who strives for excitement and thrills in the world of S & M so Cynthia just does it for her; even if that part of their lives proves to go to some dark places. The love between the two is undeniable, yet complicated. Such a multi-layered relationship that only goes deeper as the film progresses can only lead to captivating viewing and tour de force performances and it's two leads deliver just that.
Peter Strickland does a superb job with the directing this marvel. The way he creates the visuals makes this movie feel like a melancholic dream and, at times, nightmarish. Both the striking cinematography, moody music, and the encapsulating images only added to the thought provoking, unique nature of the movie. Both the script and the direction present something simple, yet wildly effective. If the sexual nature of the movie turns you away from seeing this, fear not. You don't have to expect 50 shades of shit as most of the S & M nature of the movie is hidden behind closed doors while you mostly just see them passionately embrace each other in bed. The sex, among other things, is rather subtle. I got much more than I ever would have expected with this movie and I came out absolutely loving it.
This is more than just a pleasant surprise. It's a refreshing masterpiece.