10 Avant-Garde, Psychosexual Stories on Film

Berberian Sound Studio director Peter Strickland returns to cinemas this weekend with another film featuring a tormented protagonist — this time centered on “two classic nesting conflicts of intimacy — between the needs of the self and the needs of partners, and between the potential liberations and constrictions of erotic fantasy.” In The Duke of Burgundy, “Strickland brings to life the appeals of a sexual fantasy as well as its potentially attending traps of detachment,” Slant writes. Two women test the limits of their sexual relationship, set in Strickland’s dreamy world that references the Euro sexploitation films of the 1960s and ‘70s. It has all the makings of a great psychosexual drama. We explore similarly sculpted films, below.

3-Iron

3-Iron

The films of South Korean director Kim Ki-duk, once described as a “sexual terrorist,” are full of psychosexual symbolism — and this takes on a haunting effect in 2004’s 3-Iron. A drifter Tae-suk (Hee Jae), who breaks into the empty apartments of vacationing residents, develops a relationship with an abused woman Sun-hwa (Seung-yeon Lee). The affair takes place in the beds of strangers, the couple acting as ghosts who embrace undetected. This act of concealment speaks to the filmmaker’s concerns about his home country’s attitude toward sex:

The world is facing two problems: money and sex. . . . Korean society is becoming a place where winning victory through cheating or corruption is prized. Sex is an issue that we must stay attentive to, but [Korean] society is only saying no or saying it’s dangerous — without exploring its boundaries. It’s enforcing a moral standard. . . . Once we find out all the secrets behind sex, we can then judge them to be dangerous. . . . Korea has many problems regarding sex. This is because we don’t engage in an open discussion. Koreans treat it as a simple desire that should be repressed.