This is a profound and engrossing film. Peter Strickland is clearly less a fan of cinema than a fanatic for film and there is a difference. He believes that film does not depict reality but is a reproduction of reality and therein lies his fascination. He is excited by this process and through his films similarly excites us. In this film, ostensibly about a couple of ladies living out a BDSM relationship in a rambling old mansion, his filmic inspiration is Stan Brakhage. Brakhage, who died only a few years back. experimented with film all his life, and was introduced to me many, many years ago as I sat in a mattress strewn room, four floors up in an otherwise derelict building in Camden. One of Brakhage's early films was Mothlight (1963) and was made without the use of a camera, by pressing the wings of moths into the negative that was then projected giving and unworldly effect that was not unlike staring at a light surrounded by fluttering moths. Strickland replicates this wonderfully in a sensational dream sequence in his film and is the reason for the insects featuring so prominently. As in his previous films, Strickland is as fascinated with sound as much as picture and here the soundtrack is punctuated with the scratchings and flutterings of butterflies and moths, the purring of the cat and a madam snoring. With so many visual and aural treats we sometimes tend to lose focus on the two ladies but are soon brought back by another twist in the tale. On the face of it this tale of a dom and a sub should be simple enough to tell but the director takes his time to establish the exact tone he wants so we can accept as 'true' what we see before us, even as it changes before our very eyes. As you may have gathered from my rambling, this is no ordinary film and the expected, bare flesh and lashings do not appear but plenty more does, more or less on screen, including the 'human toilet' and a fantastic masturbatory sequence with verbal instructions. So, to conclude, for me Strickland has done it again, a wonderful film, almost out of nothing as he allows his love of 'this unexplored corner of cinema that is still seen as disreputable' (principally, giallo and sexploitation) to colour his vision (and sound) for our delight.
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