With The Duke of Burgundy, the cinephilic English director Peter Strickland has made his third — and perhaps best — film to playfully riff on genre conventions. What begins as a bloodless tale of mistress and maid blossoms into a poignant, cyclical exploration of a couple’s inability.
Best experienced with an uninitiated pair of eyes, The Duke of Burgundy is an increasingly rare film that, for all its reflexive homages and aural intricacies, never forgoes substance for style.
Behind The Scenes
A lot of surprises happen on set, but the meat of it happens in the script. I don’t have the idea in advance, it’s something I find while writing it. For instance, the first draft was incredibly different from how it turned out. It was set in the real world, everyone had jobs. The way the project began was quite unusual.
I wanted to take the tropes of the genre – the female lovers, the sadomasochism – and start the first ten minutes as though you were living in one of those films, but then pull the rug out from underneath you. Suddenly, the ice queen is not the ice queen, she goes to bed in her pajamas like most people. She’s not remotely dominant at all.