Peter Strickland

The Duke of Cinephilia

Peter Strickland is a cinephilic English director and writer. His first feature film Katalin Varga, micro-budget Romanian rural revenge drama went on to win numerous awards including a Silver Bear in Berlin and The European Film Academy's Discovery of the Year award in 2009. Strickland followed Katalin Varga with unsettling psychological thriller Berberian Sound Studio. The film was named British Film of the Year at the 2012 London Critics' Circle Film Awards. In 2014 he, directed a Bjork concert film. At the same year he has finished his latest film - The Duke of Burgundy, highly atmospheric pastiche of 1970s European sleaze.


Strickland was born in 1973 to a Greek mother and British father, both teachers, and grew up in Reading, Berkshire, where he was a member of Progress Theatre, directing his own adaptation of The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. In 1997, his short film Bubblegum was entered in the Berlin Film Festival.



Few years he made his debute feature film - the suggestive drama Katalin Varga. Filmed over 17 days in the Hungarian-speaking part of the Romanian region of Transylvania, Strickland completed the project for £25,000 with a very small crew of 11 people including transport and catering. Strickland paid everyone on the shoot out of his own pocket, apart from the focus- puller, who agreed to work for free. 

"Almost everyone said I was insane, suicidal, deluded, etc, and that it's impossible to make a film for less than £200,000 even in Romania. I had barely a third of that. There were many times when I seriously doubted what I was doing. I often thought of just buying a flat, as almost everyone advised. But I asked myself, 'Should I buy myself a one-bedroom flat in Bracknell or should I make a revenge film in Transylvania?' I think the main thing that kept me going was knowing that if I bought a flat, I would always wonder, 'What if?' Even if I failed, I would know I tried my very best." But after the shooting Strickland was out of money and he didn´t start post-production. Then two Romanian producers, Oana and Tudor Giurgiu, paid attention. They saw the rough cut and came on board as co-producers, providing the funds to make a proper sound mix and blow-up from the Super 16mm negatives. "It was then snapped up by the Berlin film festival and a French distributor. The lesson is that without a producer, the film would never have been properly finished, nor exist in the public domain."Strickland was a nominee for the Golden Bear during Berlin Film Festival. The film won a Silver Berlin Bear in the category outstanding artistic contribution for the sound design.


His next film, Berberian Sound Studio (2012), was a sophisticated, magical, and playful homage to 1970s Italian horror films. The atmospheric tale of a British sound engineer out of sorts and out of his depth as he tries to make his mark on an Italian horror flick stands out as one of the most original British films of recent years. "Normally in a film, the mechanics and process are completely hidden from the viewer. With Berberian, I wanted to try the opposite—to reveal the mechanics of a film, but not actually show it. But also what’s interesting about the foley sound effect process for horror films is the two extremes: intense violence on the screen soundtracked by a process which is actually quite comical, with people smashing vegetables and trying ridiculous things with many objects. So the question for the audience is how to react to these scenes showing this? Should they laugh? Should they be disturbed? Those foley scenes cause a kind of polarity in the viewer, which I wanted to exploit, especially since we’re dealing with the subject of exploitation." said Strickland. 



Two years later, in 2014 Strickland´s next cinephilic tale came to cinemas. The Duke of Burgundy - a story of woman who studies butterflies and moths tests the limits of her relationship with her lesbian lover. 

It is a fascinating look into the give and take of committed human relationships, exemplified through immersive visual storytelling and the oft kinky sadomasochistic proclivities of two women.
Strickland talked about the another hard beginng of the shooting: "Over 2 years ago, when I started this project, Berberian Sound Studio was in the garbage. Berlin rejected it, Cannes rejected it, and I thought we fucked it up. Then I met Andy Starke and Pete Tombs from Rook Films. They offered me to work for them and make a film for 20,000 pounds. All of us thought no one would be interested in The Duke of Burgundy because of a) Berberian being in no man’s land, and b) the subject matter. Then suddenly Berberian got recognized, and surprisingly [the financiers] were really interested. In my mind I thought I was making a sleazy little film, but suddenly people were responding to it positively."
After the finishing the film the success came again. The film was screened at various film festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival, the London Film Festival, and the International Film Festival Rotterdam, to positive critical reviews.