Maîtresse 16


Barbet Schroeder

  • 1976
  • France
  • Drama
  • 1h52mn
  • French
  • Color
Olivier, a provincial outsider turned door to door book salesman in Paris, must help Ariane who has a leaking bathtub, and who tells him the flat below her own is uninhabited. While trying to burglarize it, Olivier gets trapped in what turns out to be Ariane’s S&M dungeon, as she’s a professional dominatrix who agrees to free him under certain conditions...
Maitresse is often remembered for its immersion into the world of Parisian S&M and its disturbing scenes featuring real patrons. But often forgotten is the immense love story between Ariane and Olivier, that defies all preconceptions and demolishes the norm. Fascinated by the blurring of the lines between reality and fiction , Schroeder blends them with virtuosity, humor and respect, without voyeurism, thus building a strangely real and almost enchanted world.

Cosey Fanni Tutti

I first saw Maitresse when it was shown in 1977 at a private film club in London. At the time I was into and fascinated by BDSM so I was interested to see how such private delicate sex rituals were portrayed on film. Watching it now it’s hard to believe it was banned for being obscene. It starts off rather sedate, almost comedic. But it’s essentially a love story that begins by a chance meeting between Ariane (played by Bulle Ogier) and a thief Olivier (Gérard Depardieu). When Olivier breaks into the apartment directly below Ariane's intending to rob the place he finds a fully equipped dungeon with racks of implements of torture and fetish clothing. He discovers that this is where Ariane operates her business as a dominatrix offering a range of sadomasochistic rituals for her clients. Ariane is the perfect mistress in her glorious fetish costumes, designed by Karl Lagerfeld, and allows Olivier to watch and occasionally participate, paying him for his contribution of pissing in the face of one of her clients. They go on a date and begin a passionate affair, she lets him move in with her as her lover and continues to operate her business as usual. But it’s not long before Olivier becomes jealous of the other men. He’s either ignorant of or indifferent to the fundamental rules of BDSM and what being a Maitresse is all about - trust, discipline, positions of power and control. Ariane is clear about these, and keeps her personal life separate to her work with her two apartments, two phones and Olivier and her customers. These established boundaries and her strict routine fall apart after Olivier enters her life. The worse scene for me to watch was when he forces her to have sex with him in front of some of her clients, destroying the position of authority she holds as Maitresse that is essential to her and their fantasies. Overall I liked the film as a glimpse into the world of BDSM, the thresholds of pleasure and pain and it was all the more convincing because the (consensual) sadomasochistic scenes were not ‘acted’, even the extreme fetishistic scene of nailing a man's scrotum to a block of wood (not done by Bulle Ogier). I also liked how the story touched on managing and maintaining a personal relationship when being a sex worker. It’s common for the clients and lovers of sex workers to try and ‘rescue them’, assuming they’re trapped in a seedy world (as Olivier did with Ariane). Maybe that’s because they want them all to themselves, or that they feel emasculated. But just like BDSM it’s all about trust.


14/09 • 21h45 • Screen 300
Screening presented by Cosey Fanni Tutti



  • With : Gérard Depardieu, Bulle Ogier, André Rouyer, Nathalie Keryan, Roland Bertin
  • Screenplay : Barbet Schroeder, Paul Voujargol
  • Photography : Nestor Almendros
  • Editing : Denise de Casabianca
  • Music by : Carlos d’Alessio
  • Production : Pierre Andrieux