The Duke of Burgundy

The Duke of Burgundy is a 2014 British erotic drama film written and directed by Peter Strickland, and starring Sidse Babett Knudsen as Cynthia and Chiara D'Anna as Evelyn.

The Duke of Burgundy
The Duke of Burgundy UK Poster.jpg
British release poster
Directed byPeter Strickland
Produced byAndy Starke
Written byPeter Strickland
Music byCat's Eyes
CinematographyNic Knowland
Edited byMátyás Fekete
Distributed byArtificial Eye
Release date
  • 6 September 2014 (2014-09-06) (TIFF)
  • 20 February 2015 (2015-02-20) (UK)
Running time
104 minutes[2]
CountryUnited Kingdom
Box office$175,668[3][4]

The film was screened at various film festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival, the London Film Festival, and the International Film Festival Rotterdam, to positive critical reviews.[1][5][6]


Evelyn is studying lepidopterology under the older Cynthia, who frequently lectures on her studies. Evelyn is romantically involved with Cynthia and works as a maid in her home, where she is subject to strict behavioural expectations and high standards for cleanliness. When Evelyn does not complete tasks to Cynthia's satisfaction, she is punished.

As Cynthia increasingly falters in her dominance, it becomes apparent that Evelyn is orchestrating Cynthia's role in the relationship by writing instructions and scripts for specific scenes, which the couple acts out in the same way each day. While Evelyn finds the scenes to be sexually exciting, Cynthia only acts them out to sate her lover. She attempts to please Evelyn by ordering a carpenter to construct a bed with a drawer underneath for Evelyn to sleep in as a punishment; however, Evelyn is unhappy with the length of time it will take to produce the bed, and ultimately refuses the gift.

Evelyn begins to demand that Cynthia lock her in a trunk in the evening as a new punishment. Cynthia agrees, but she is resentful about the new physical separation. Cynthia also becomes self-conscious about her ageing, having injured her back moving the trunk to her bedside. She expresses her unhappiness on Evelyn's birthday, when she demands that Evelyn bake her own birthday cake, which Cynthia eats while reclining with her feet resting on Evelyn's face. Evelyn does not enjoy the scene and calls out her safeword, pinastri, which Cynthia ignores.

The couple's relationship becomes more strained as Evelyn's expectations go unfulfilled. Finally, Cynthia accuses Evelyn of polishing another lecturer's boots, which she considers to be an act of betrayal. The two eventually seem to make up, and Evelyn agrees to put less emphasis on her sexual needs. The film ends with the couple going through the same play routine seen at the film's start.



As lepidopterology (the study of moths and butterflies) is a theme throughout the film, the title refers to the Duke of Burgundy (Hamearis lucina) butterfly, although it is no longer known "how [it] received that name in the first place, any reasoning being lost in the mists of entomological antiquity."[7]


The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported an approval rating of 94%, based on 101 reviews, with an average rating of 8 out of 10. The critical consensus reads "Stylish, sensual, and smart, The Duke of Burgundy proves that erotic cinema can have genuine substance".[8] At Metacritic, which assigns a weighted average score, the film has a score of 87 out of 100, indicating "Universal Acclaim" based on 24 reviews.[9]

The A.V. Club called The Duke of Burgundy the 4th best film of 2015[10] and the 34th best film of the 2010s.[11] In his initial review for The A.V. Club, Mike D'Angelo called the film "a beautiful love story disguised as stylish smut", assigning it an A grade, later naming his own favorite film of the year.[12] The Indiewire critic's poll named it the third best film of the year,[13] and it ranked 69th in that publication's list of the best films of the decade.[14]

The film's score by Cat's Eyes also received positive attention, with critic Noel Murray asserting that it deserved an Oscar nod despite the relative obscurity of the film.[15]

Awards and accoladesEdit

Strickland received The Wouter Barendrecht Pioneering Vision Award at the Hamptons International Film Festival for his work in the film.[16] The film also won the Grand Jury Prize at the 23rd Philadelphia Film Festival.[17]


The Duke of Burgundy was released by Cat's Eyes in February 2015.

1."Forest Intro"0:38 -
2."The Duke of Burgundy"2:19
4."Door No. 1"1:11
6."Dr. Schuller"0:13
8."Door No. 2"1:39
9."Carpenter Arrival"3:33
11."Door No. 3"1:39
12."Black Madonna"1:49
14."Evelyn's Birthday"2:07
15."Evelyn's Birthday" (Flute Version)1:52
16."Black Madonna" (Cor Anglais Version)1:21
17."Night Crickets"0:20
18."Requiem For the Duke of Burgundy"4:36
20."Coat of Arms"2:48
Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Review scores
MusicOMH     [19]


  1. ^ a b "Film Review: 'The Duke of Burgundy'". Variety. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  2. ^ "THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 12 January 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ "'The Duke of Burgundy': Toronto Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  6. ^ "TIFF Review: Peter Strickland's 'The Duke Of Burgundy' Is A Surreal & Sublime Knock-Out". Indiewire. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  7. ^ Matthew Oates, In Pursuit of Butterflies: A Fifty-year Affair (New York: Bloomsbury, 2015),
  8. ^ "The Duke Of Burgundy (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  9. ^ "The Duke of Burgundy". Metacritic. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  10. ^ "The 20 best films of 2015". The A.V. Club. 17 December 2015. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  11. ^ "The 100 best movies of the 2010s". The A.V. Club. 18 November 2019. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  12. ^ D'Angelo, Mike (22 January 2015). "The Duke Of Burgundy is a beautiful love story disguised as stylish smut". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  13. ^ "The 20 Best Films of 2015". Indiewire.
  14. ^ "The 100 Best Movies of the Decade". Indiewire.
  15. ^ "The Oscars will ignore The Duke Of Burgundy's score, but they shouldn't". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 28 December 2019. And yet as great as The Duke Of Burgundy’s score is, it stands zero chance of landing an Oscar nomination. First off, it’s weird, and often dissonant—not the kind of thing an Academy member would be inclined to play in their car on the way to work. But more importantly (and, frankly, damningly), The Duke Of Burgundy just isn’t well-known enough.
  16. ^ "HIFF 2014 Golden Starfish Awards Announced: 'Gett' and 'The Special Need' Named Best Features". Hamptons. Retrieved 28 December 2019.
  17. ^ "Philadelphia Film Festival Announces Prize Winners Including 'Duke of Burgundy' & 'The Overnighters'". Way Too Indie. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  18. ^ "Metacritic Review". Retrieved 5 April 2015.
  19. ^ Lee, Tim (16 February 2015). "MusicOMH Review". Retrieved 5 April 2015.

External linksEdit