The Duke of Burgundy

The Duke of Burgundy ★★★★★

Watching The Duke of Burgundy while being queer and stuck in a masculine body that does not represent me, I have never been more envious of cis women. Peter Strickland's film is so beautiful, heartbreaking and insanely, jaw-droppingly erotic that I can't believe it was made by a man. Somehow, he crafted a profound work of art that is 100% feminine to the core and completely respectful to the BDSM community. As frank and kinky as the film is with its sexuality, there is no nudity at all. I don't know whether Strickland set this limitation for himself to avoid any possibility of the male gaze or whether it was a stylistic limitation in the vein of the Hays Code (though I'm pretty sure no one in Old Hollywood films was heard drinking their girlfriend's piss), but whatever the reason, this choice actually works splendidly. After all, the imagination is a powerful thing.

I cannot know how differently I would have reacted to The Duke of Burgundy even a year ago, before I accepted my own trans identity. As my mind has shifted to allowing itself to consciously perceive things through a female lens, the film resonated intensely with me on an emotional level. Both the seemingly dominant lepidopterist Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and her obsessively submissive partner Evelyn (Chiara D'Anna) are relatable through different personality traits. The butterfly motif throughout the film is an exquisite touch, and the songs and score contributed by Cat's Eyes suit the mood of the film so well that the thought of different music is inconceivable. What an utterly stunning, tasteful, even romantic film The Duke of Burgundy is, certainly up there with the finest of its kind.

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