In both The Duke of Burgundy and It Follows, sex is melancholy and transactional.
The Duke of Burgundy is a knowing riff on European erotic cinema of the 70s. In it, sex a functional peg on which to hang a dying relationship, and a camouflage or replacement for true intimacy. The central couple enact their sub-dom rituals to prevent their relationship dissolving, but only succeed in stopping it evolving.
It Follows is a elegiac variation on John Carpenter’s urban legend horrors. Here sex is an entry point into a world of claustrophobia, a source of creeping dread, and then an amoral (and probably futile) last-gasp escape route. Characters make love to postpone the inevitability of death, but there’s nothing triumphant or defiant in it. It feels more like capitulation.
Both films are set slightly out of time, with a hallucinatory, off-kilter sensibility. Both feature hypnotic soundtracks and lingering shots of women gazing into mirrors. Both end with love marked for destruction.
Four stars each, recommended!