The Duke Of Burgundy, film review: S&M fantasy is everything Fifty Shades of Grey isn't

(18) Peter Strickland, 104 mins Starring: Sidse Babett Knudsen, Chiara D'Anna
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The Independent Culture

Peter Strickland's wryly subversive S&M fantasy is everything that Fifty Shades of Grey isn't. It is gorgeously shot in a style reminiscent of Walerian Borowczyk's equally outré fantasies. With all its butterfly references, it has a flavour of Nabokov as well. The deadpan tone of the storytelling and performances can't help but seem funny and disconcerting given how kinky the subject matter actually is.

Evelyn (Chiara D'Anna) cycles every day to a country house where she is ritually humiliated, bullied and occasionally tortured by the dominatrix-like lady of the house, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen from Borgen.) In his own subtle way, Strickland is exploring shifting power relations between the lovers. He pays exhaustive, fetishistic attention to texture, sound and touch – the squeak of leather, the rustling of the wind through the trees, the smoothness of the silk lingerie.

This is an old-fashioned, Sixties-style European art-house movie that makes few concessions to conventional narrative. Even the credits are surprising. ("Dress and lingerie" are by the appropriately named Hungarian stylist, Andrea Flesch.) It's a wondrously bizarre affair, beautiful and baffling by turns.