Q&A with Radley Metzger.
Adapted from the 1956 novel by Catherine Robbe-Grillet (writing under the nom de plume Jean de Berg) and also known as The Punishment of Anne, this uncompromising and groundbreaking depiction of sadomasochism is perhaps Metzger’s darkest film. Jean (Carl Parker) encounters the mysterious Anne (Rebecca Brooke as Mary Mendum) at a Paris literary party only to discover that she’s the sex slave of middle-aged dominatrix Claire (Marilyn Roberts). Fascinated, he is drawn into their high-class world of dominance and submission, first as observer and then participant in the women’s erotic games, which take a turn when Claire hands Anne over to Jean for his own personal use. While Metzger never loses sight of the humanity of his characters, be warned—in its harrowing and relentless penultimate chapter in Claire’s “gothic dungeon,” The Image takes you to the dark side—its scenes of torture and flagellation are emphatically not for the faint of heart. The Image also marks the point at which Metzger makes the transition from softcore to hardcore, begun with the tentative first steps in Score, while nevertheless maintaining his customary high style and visual invention. With its fearless depiction of the objectification of Anne in a succession of no-holds-barred sexual scenarios, The Image ranks alongside Barbet Schroeder’s Maîtresse as one of cinema’s best depictions of S&M.