Tough call if you’re a movie marketer: Do you sell The Duke of Burgundy as a story of a professor who specializes in the study of moths and butterflies, or a tale of a lesbian S&M role-playing relationship? Of course this is a trick question, because this movie is both. It has plenty to interest lepidopterists and kinksters alike.
The film is mostly set in and around a beautiful old house in the countryside (Hungarian, though the film’s in English). We first meet the professor, Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen), as she cruelly bosses around Evelyn (Chiara D’Anna), a younger woman who appears to be her maid. It turns out this ritual of humiliation is not only mutually accepted, but mostly dictated by Evelyn, who enjoys being punished.