Kinky Film Series in Review: Histoire d’O
After the release of the highly anticipated film 50 Shades of Grey, we here at the Happy Trail want to recognize other films that have pushed kinky boundaries in the theater. For the next four weeks, I will be dedicating my articles to reviews of groundbreaking movies that are known for their portrayals of kinky delights. Sorry Christian and Anastasia, your antics won’t be included in this series. This week’s movie will give tribute to the French book-turned-film Histoire d’O (or Story of O).
In the 1975 adaptation of Pauline Réage’s 1954 novel, director Just Jaeckin depicts the sadomasochistic romance between O (Corrine Cléry) and her boyfriend René (Udo Kier) on the big screen. René takes his girlfriend, O, to a bizarre retreat at a château in the desolate town of Roissy, France. While there, O is imprisoned by a jailer, Pierre (Jean Gaven), who instructs her about how to submit to her boyfriend and other men through bondage and sexual perversions. O willingly submits in order to strengthen her BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, sadism and masochism) relationship with her boyfriend. She transforms from being mildly submissive to an object of obedience. After returning to their life in Paris, René decides that in order for O to be completely dedicated to him, she must also submit herself to his step-brother Sir Stephen (Anthony Steel), and O abides.
The film does a great job at giving a look at a true 24/7 BDSM relationship, pushed to the extreme, complete with clothing, piercing and brandings. The film also does not fail to provide a thoroughly exciting and erotic experience. Linda Ruth Williams, a film reviewer for the British Film Institute, complains, “Although there are nipples aplenty and a fair share of (female) pubic hair, there’s hardly any male flesh, excited or otherwise, in sight. The sole reason for the film’s notoriety seems to be its focus on bondage and whipping.”
While the purpose of the film is to document her experience serving her Dom, O is nude about 80 percent of the film, which seems excessive when men in the film are rarely shown scantily clad.
This film is not perfect, but it isn’t awful and I enjoyed it overall. If you’re looking for a story with a coherent narrative driven by substantial dialogue, then you will probably be disappointed. It is clear that O goes through a transformation over the course of the story; however, it is not clear what specific experiences and interactions change her into woman that she is when the film ends. The viewer is required to assume how O’s character development is influenced by her experiences.
All in all, if you’re looking for an interesting, erotic experience, then you’re definitely in the right place.
It is important to note that due to the nature of the subject, much of the sexual content in the film might be mistaken by its audience as torture, abuse or assault. When viewers keep the intent behind the film in mind, they can appreciate the film for its dark, deviant romance. However, it is possible that the viewer might not be able to grasp how this relationship is acceptable because it is too far from their idea or experience of romance. In this case, this might detract from their viewing experience and enjoyment of the film.
Either way, the film is definitely thought- and dialogue-provoking and could introduce viewers to sexual interests they might not have considered prior to viewing the film.