From highly acclaimed director Radley Metzger, The Image (aka The Punishment Of Anne) is a fascinating study of the sadomasochistic relationship between a young girl and an older woman. Based on the classic novel “L’Image” from Jean De Berg, this sexual masterpiece is hailed by critics as one of the best erotic films ever made. Beautifully photographed and loaded with highly charged sexual imagery and provocative situations, The Image is a cinematic masterpiece that brings the darker side of your deepest erotic fantasies to life.
The Image 7.25
eyelights: its creative camera work. the sublime Rebecca Brooke. the sexy stuff.
eyesores: its sado-masochism.
“She belongs to me.”
‘The Image’ is a 1975 motion picture by Radley Metzger. Set in Paris, and based on the novel by Catherine Robbe-Grillet, it portrays the sado-masochistic dynamic between a wealthy mistress, her beautiful slave, and Jean, the story’s narrator and protagonist.
This one took me by surprise.
I had seen Radley Metzger’s name about at one of the local indie video stores, but immediately put him in the same boat as Tinto Brass and Just Jaeckin: male-driven ’70s erotica; light, sexy fun. Basically, I had expected something along the lines of ‘Histoire d’O‘.
I’m really not into BDSM and I don’t at all find it sexy, but ‘Histoire d’O’ was a gorgeous picture with a sexy lead who spends most of the picture naked. Yum. The picture has an aesthetic and mood that compensate for all of the (to me) off-putting bondage and sadism.
‘The Image’ isn’t erotica: it’s porn; unlike ‘Histoire d’O’, it’s extremely explicit. But it’s aesthetically-pleasing, well-crafted porn; it crosses the line into art with its staging, creative camera work and lighting. It’s porn of the kind you rarely find these days.
I didn’t see it coming. It seemed innocuous enough: the opening sets up these great shots of Paris and takes Jean to a high society cocktail party in a large mansion whose terrace looks out on a large plaza and the Eiffel tower. The Eiffel tower! Now that’s class.
There he is taken with a lovely blonde, a friend of the hostess, Claire. He notices that they seem to have a close bond and, when he asks her about it, Claire tells him that Anne is a model who “belongs” to her. Seeing his interest, she arranges for them to have dinner together.
He soon discovers that Claire wasn’t kidding: she treats Anne like an object, speaks of her as though she’s her possession. It starts innocuously enough. But it’s when they meet at Parc de Bagatelle, one of Paris’ large botanical gardens, that things really heat up.
In the garden, Claire commands Anne to go pick one of the roses. The girl hesitates, seeing as it’s against the law, but eventually relents. As punishment for not obeying her mistress, she is taken to an isolated corner of the garden where she is humiliated in front of Jean.
First she forces Anne to lift her dress and show her nakedness to him. Yum. Then Claire pricks her thigh gently with the rose she’d picked – in a shot carefully crafted that could easily be a postcard. Then came the shocker: she has Anne urinate in public for all to see.
I was stunned: there were no edits, and nothing was concealed. We are basically watching this golden angel crouch down, legs spread, and urinate on camera. I wasn’t shocked by the act; it was a slightly sexy sight. I was just bowled over that this was captured on film.
That’s when I realized that this was going to be something else. And it was. Jean is then given permission by Claire to take advantage of Anne in whatever ways he wants. So he and Claire have fun playing around with the girl, in a series of very explicit sequences.
I could make a list of everything, but I’ll leave some to the imagination; after all, the point of such movies is building sexual tension by slowly pushing boundaries. And it does. Although, interestingly enough, Metzger isn’t as eager when they have intercourse that rare time.
His focus is to lead us down the path of Anne’s ultimate domination and punishment, which is where I checked out; I found the picture pretty hot until the closing scene, which totally put me off. You know how “torture porn” is an expression for certain types of horror films?
Well, THIS is torture porn.
Not my thing.
One thing I do like, however, is the way that the dynamic is portrayed: Anne is a willing participant in this BDSM dance. It really is a two-way street: It’s all in subtle looks, in the way she carefully chooses the whip that will torment her flesh, how she consciously gives in.
To further cement the notion that this is a choice, we see her cross paths with Jean after their first encounter, ignoring him. She also rebuffs Claire after one of their sessions. For reasons that aren’t explained here (BDSM always escapes me) she wants this.
The picture apparently drew some controversy at the time, because feminists were seeing this as a sexist male fantasy of dominating and hurting women. Interestingly enough, though, like ‘Histoire d’O’, the book it’s based on was written by a woman under a male pseudonym.
Thankfully, ‘The Image’ is a beautiful picture, and it features some creative camera work – some of which are rather cheeky:
- Jean is waiting in his car near some fountains, thinking about Anne. As his lust grows, the fountains all start shooting water behind him, a few at a time, until the whole backdrops is filled with streams of water.
- In a change of scene, we cut to a long shot of small tower, initially seen sideways. Then the camera moves 90 degrees to the right to bring the tower upright, emulating an erection.
What’s amazing is that these didn’t come off as hoaky at all; Metzger managed to make it look more artsy than anything else. It impressed me to some degree, especially in light of the fact that by then I knew I was watching porn. Since when is porn inspired?
Unfortunately, for all the filmmakers’ technical proficiency and visual flair, there was a huge issue in the audio department: the dubbing. At the time, it wasn’t uncommon for European films to shoot with no sound and be dubbed later. Unfortunately, it’s really bad here.
Still, this didn’t deter from my enjoyment. I liked the mood that ‘The Image’ created, and did find some moments incredibly sexy. Of course, there were all those S&M bits that put me off, but it’s only the ending that actually ruined it for me. Others may feel differently.
Date of viewing: March 22, 2016