A young innocent falls for a leather-clad dominatrix in Barbet Schroeder’s controversial film, at once a conventional love story and a dark study of fetishism.

Based on an encounter with a real-life dominatrix, Barbet Schroeder’s controversial story of a Paris prostitute specialising in bondage and sadomasochism was refused a certificate on its original release. The film features graphic scenes of torture and fetishism which the BBFC in 1976 described as ‘miles in excess of anything we have ever passed in this field’. Only released at the time in a handful of club cinemas, in 1981 the film was cut by almost five minutes and finally awarded an X certificate. The BFI now presents Maîtresse uncut on DVD.

Featuring Gerard Depardieu as Olivier, the young innocent who falls for the mysterious maîtresse Ariane (Bulle Ogier), the leather-clad dominatrix, the film is both a conventional love story and a dark study of fetishism. As the lovers’ relationship begins to mirror the power games of the bordello, they become unable to separate their ‘normal’ relationship from the perversions and masochism of the chamber below.

Schroeder, who went on to make Barfly (1987), Reversal of Fortune (1990) and Single White Female (1992) in Hollywood, was aiming to achieve a wholly non-judgmental exploration of this side of human sexuality, to strip it of its association with fascism and oppression. Not only did he call on the services of a real Parisian dominatrix who supplied on-set advice and much of her own equipment, he also used several of her actual clients in the scenes where Ariane imprisons, abuses and humiliates them.

Although on its release Maîtresse was denounced by some critics as sordid and perverted, Schroeder has always regarded it as “an extremely healthy movie… joyous and life-affirming.”

Special features

  • Original film poster.
  • Biography of Barbet Schroeder.
  • Interview with Barbet Schroeder (on-screen text and ROM content).
  • Original examiner reports of the censor (ROM content).

Product information

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    • Original aspect ratio


    • DVD region

      • 2 Europe (except Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus), Middle East, Egypt, Japan, South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Greenland, French Overseas departments and territories

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