• Several rituals and ceremonies led by dominatrices happen inside this Paris mansion where 'The Ceremony' takes place. (Source: SBS) (SBS)Source: SBS
The documentary 'The Ceremony: Dominatrix of France' shows why Catherine Robbe-Grillet is a cultural institution in her own right.
By
SBS Guide

9 Nov 2018 - 11:19 AM  UPDATED 9 Nov 2018 - 3:56 PM

Swedish filmmaker Lina Mannheimer’s first feature, The Ceremony: Dominatrix of France, explores the intimate and unspoken power dynamics of being one of the world’s oldest and most famous dominatrices. When we first meet the film’s main subject, Catherine Robbe-Grillet (or ‘Madame’, as she likes to be called), she rejects the idea of power being an attractive element of the role. ‘It’s rather about pushing oneself to intensities,’ she confirms.

Robbe-Grillet is also the driving force behind an enclave of erotic roleplaying and sexual ceremony hidden set in a mansion somewhere in Paris. The day-to-day sessions threaded throughout the film are at once mundane and the highest form of theatre: men are reduced to clucking hens or nibbling scraps of food on the floor; women perform for Robbe-Grillet in the hope of winning her approval – or even better, love.

The Ceremony isn’t all solemn insights – there’s humour, too. In one day-time interview with Robbe-Grillet, she reads out a text message from a potential partner: ‘Good evening, madame. I would like you to insult me.’ Throughout The Ceremony, what’s revealed is the dexterous skill and talent in turning sadomasochistic tendencies into an art form: one where everyone has a role on an imagined stage, and where desires and well-kept secrets are revealed when we least expect them to be.

Ultimately, though, the doco pushes aside social conventions and boundaries to shine a light on how some people pursue happiness.

 

The Ceremony: Dominatrix of France airs on 9 November at 9:25pm on SBS VICELAND, streaming after anytime at SBS On Demand:

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