Every morning, housekeeper Evelyn cycles enthusiastically to the stately country house of Cynthia (Sidse Babett Knudsen, from the Danish TV series Borgen), where she does not receive a particularly warm welcome. Cynthia curtly barks orders at her; and if she is not satisfied with the work, Evelyn is punished. It seems as if the two are caught up in a long-term S&M relationship. Cynthia, a prim & proper lepidopterist (butterfly expert), seems to be the dominant one. But director Peter Strickland (Berberian Sound Studio) fairly soon reveals that things may not be as they seem. In reality, it is Evelyn who strictly imposes her fantasies on Cynthia by means of cards with instructions.
The opulent decor (in which dark red sets the tone), the sultry camerawork and romantic soundtrack make The Duke of Burgundy a sensual drama, even if most of the eroticism takes place off screen. Strickland concentrates on the completely convincing love between the two women, who are able to create their own timeless (and manless) universe – a place where it is normal to be locked in a chest.