UK, Hungary


Cynthia and Evelyn love each other.
Day after day the couple act out a simple ritual that ends in Evelyn's punishment, but Cynthia yearns for a more conventional relationship.
Evelyn's obsession quickly becomes an addiction that pushes their relationship to breaking point.

Director's Statement

THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY takes place in an unnamed European city in an unspecified time. This script is a story about all relationships and how one is expected to conform to an image the other person has of them. Whether it’s merely the pressure of being the decision-maker in daily life or having to act out roles in the bedroom, we can relate to both the pressure of living up to someone else’s image of us and conversely, our needs for our loved ones to conform to our own expectations, no matter how innocent they may be. THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY takes this to an extreme level within the context of a sado-masochistic relationship, as we see how the submissive Evelyn dominates her older lover, Cynthia. From this, the different layers of Cynthia’s identity gradually unfold throughout the film; we constantly reassess her role within the relationship as she shifts from heartless ice queen to consenting lover to controlled victim. The nature of performance is also a huge part of the film, in which two people agree to take on roles and re-enact the same scenarios again and again. Even movements are stipulated by the use of marker tape on the floor. Despite repeating the same lines, Cynthia’s performance as a cruel and dominant woman changes each time we see it and more is revealed about the dynamic within the relationship. The same words and scenarios are adhered to, but the more we know about the characters, the more we perceive each time a role is re-enacted. By the end of the film, instead of sounding cold and in control, Cynthia’s voice quivers leaving her sounding vulnerable and on the point of breakdown. The starting point was to see how the disreputable genre of 70s erotic cinema could be resuscitated. Jess Franco’s films in particular struck me as being rich in atmosphere, intensity and sexual fever and I wanted to use some of his films as a starting point for a torrid love story. The loose plan was not only to use his films as a model, but also his manner of working – to do something very quickly and cheaply with not many actors or locations. At the same time, it was important to avoid copying, hence the avoidance of nudity or any clichés normally associated with sado-masochism. Many parts of the film are explicit, yet never in the conventional sense. The most essential aspect of the film is its dreamy, post-orgasmic flow. One feels as if the film itself is a spell of sorts that Evelyn is under. Being under that spell is what she’s addicted to.

Links / Reference

UK born writer/director Peter Strickland’s first feature film KATALIN VARGA was funded and produced independently over a four-year period. The micro-budget rural revenge drama went on to win numerous awards including a Silver Bear in Berlin and the European Film Academy’s Discovery of the Year award in 2009.
Strickland followed KATALIN VARGA with BERBERIAN SOUND STUDIO in 2012, which was produced by Illuminations and Warp X and funded by Film4, UK Film Council, Match Factory and Screen Yorkshire. The film was distributed internationally and won several awards, including four at the 2012 British Independent Film Awards including Best Director and Best Actor. The film was named British Film of the Year at the 2012 London Critics’ Circle Film Awards.
Prior to KATALIN VARGA, Strickland made a number of short films including BUBBLEGUM, (which starred
Warhol superstar, Holly Woodlawn) and A METAPHYSICAL EDUCATION. He also founded The Sonic Catering Band in 1996, which has released several records and performed live throughout Europe. Since 1999, he has released over twenty records through his Peripheral Conserve label.
The label’s output varies from field recordings to sound poetry, Krautrock and modern classical in very limited vinyl

NTERVIEW with Cat's Eyes

Cast & Crew

Directed by: Peter Strickland

Written by: Peter Strickland

Produced by: Andy Starke

Cinematography: Nic Knowland

Editing: Mátyás Fekete

Production Design: Pater Sparrow

Costume Design: Andrea Flesch

Original Score: Cat's Eyes

Sound Design: Martin Pavey

Cast: Sidse Babett Knudsen (Cynthia), Chiara D'Anna (Evelyn), Monica Swinn (Lorna)

Nominations and Awards

  • European Composer 2015
  • Feature Film Selection 2015