- 1 hr 24 min
Fetishes is a captivating documentary filmed entirely within the world-renowned BDSM club, Pandora's Box, in New York City circa 1996. Directed and narrated by British filmmaker Nick Broomfield, the film illuminates the complex relationships and power dynamics within the BDSM community through interviews, fly-on-the-wall footage, and titillating imagery.
Broomfield utilizes an objective, non-judgmental approach as he delves into the BDSM world - a world rife with prejudices and misunderstandings. He explores the psychological and emotional motivations behind the club's dominatrixes, attempting to understand their reasons for choosing to work in the industry. Through interviews with the dungeon master, Madame Beatrice - a powerhouse of a woman with fiery red hair and a commanding presence - and other dominatrixes, such as the sultry, latex-clad Mistress Catherine, Broomfield highlights the wide array of personalities and motivations behind these strong and powerful women. Their clients, often wealthy and powerful men, are also spoken with, providing insight into their reasoning in seeking out such an unconventional form of pleasure.
Broomfield does not shy away from the sexual nature of the club but rather draws attention to its artistry and beauty, showcasing the intricate choreography of BDSM scenes through deftly filmed and expertly edited footage. In taking this approach, Broomfield succeeds in breaking down the taboo surrounding BDSM, presenting it as a form of artistic expression and allowing the viewer to gain a new appreciation for the dynamics of domination and submission.
What makes the documentary so striking is the sense of intimacy captured on camera. While not graphic, the depictions of the BDSM scenes and interactions between the dominatrixes and their clients are intense, leaving the viewer feeling almost as though they are experiencing the scenarios themselves. In one particularly emotional scene, Broomfield films a session in which a male client breaks down in tears as he surrenders control to the powerful Madame Beatrice. The scene is incredibly moving, and Broomfield's approach is both respectful and compassionate, elevating the experience beyond what could have been considered mere voyeurism.
Broomfield is keen to explore the in-depth relationships that form within the BDSM community, particularly those between the dominatrixes and their clients. While the sessions may only last an hour, the client's relationship with their dominatrix - and the Pandora's Box community - can span years. The power dynamics at play are both fascinating and complex, and Broomfield does an excellent job of unraveling them. In one notable sequence, he films a dominatrix observing a session and commenting on the way the submissive approaches a scenario, highlighting the complexities of the psychological play at work.
Overall, the documentary is a fascinating look at a world that is often misunderstood and judged harshly. Broomfield's approach is respectful, and his dedication to stripping away the stereotypes surrounding BDSM is admirable. The powerful performances of the dominatrixes and their clients are electric, and the imagery captured throughout is both beautiful and haunting. While not for the faint of heart, Fetishes is a must-watch for anyone interested in exploring alternative forms of sexual expression and the psychology behind it.