The Story of O (1975)
The Story of O (1975)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.

Release Date: November 14th, 1975 MPAA Rating: X

Director: Just Jaeckin Actors: Corinne Clery, Udo Kier, Anthony Steel, Jean Gaven, Christiane Minazzoli, Martine Kelly, Laure Moutoussamy




ne day, Rene (Udo Kier) takes a woman, simply called O (Corrine Clery), for a drive through the woods, to an unknown but secluded destination. Along the way, he asks her to remove her undergarments, which, oddly, doesn’t seem to bother her much. Even when he pulls out a pocketknife and cuts off her bra, she appears only mildly miffed. And finally, at the end of their journey, O is instructed to approach a sizable estate, ring the doorbell, and follow the instructions of the answerer. She must obey without question. To this, she agrees.

Other than needless commentary by a woman’s voiceover narration, there’s no real introduction to the characters. Who are they? Why would they behave the way that they do? Is O a kidnap victim? In the strangest of movie openings, the narrative resets itself for another, alternate beginning – one in which the car ride is re-shown, Rene is labeled as O’s lover, and an unseen man is the one insisting that O be prepared for a stay at the castle-like dwelling. In this second version, which isn’t altogether different from the first, O has her hands tied behind her back and is blindfolded. The narrator suggests that this surprises O, as she has every intention of obeying Rene’s commands, though once again she exhibits almost no emotions concerning the treatment.

Light, romantic piano music plays in the background, as if to reassure audiences that the events aren’t going to immediately become unpleasant. And the narrator drones on, mentioning trivial details, such as the interminable amount of time that O waits in the foyer before two women, whose breasts dangle outside their dresses, come to escort her to a different room, wherein she’s stripped, has her hair brushed, has makeup applied to her lips and nipples, and has a collar with a chain latched around her neck. “You mustn’t keep your legs together. It’s forbidden.”

“What we have to do is get tears out of her.” It’s not long before she’s raped by a series of men (she doesn’t seem to be enjoying herself fully, though she supposedly agreed to spontaneous sex with strangers, and the ringmaster reiterates that no one forced her to be there), and then tied up, whipped, and chained to the bed in her quarters by her personal valet, Pierre (Jean Gaven). All the while, Rene lingers around the chateau, watching the torture and even reclining beside her as other men penetrate her.

Although she immediately feels defiled, guilty, and helpless (quite understandably), O believes that by surrendering herself to the whims and pleasures of other men, Rene will love her more. Rather than delving into the psychological implications of why he’s obsessed with bondage and submission, and why she would accommodate his sexual proclivities, the film simply documents the fact that she goes along with it. The narrator clarifies that she’s amused by the alternating sweetness and terror that surrounds her, but it never examines her motives for acquiescing to such an unusual lifestyle – other than, perhaps, naïveté or uncommon adventurousness. At one point, the narrator explains that O endures the torment for the sake of curiosity, wondering when and how it will all end.

“The Story of O” is intended to be an erotic, female-oriented drama, yet it’s difficult to view it as anything other than an exploitive male fantasy. Curiously, after O finishes her “training” at the chateau, there’s something of a brief story, chronicling O’s regular career as a fashion photographer. These sequences barely interrupt the sex and graphic nudity, however, as it’s then revealed that Rene’s brother of sorts, Sir Stephen (Anthony Steel), a man old enough to be O’s father, wishes to become her master as well, sharing her as a sexual plaything.

The film’s descriptions of love are bizarre at best, considering that O wants to be disciplined, humiliated, and beaten (even to the point of unconsciousness), and becomes aroused by the thought of imagining Rene’s titillation while other men have sex with her. Notions of love and affection are astoundingly twisted in O’s perspective; affection is corrupted and lust governs everything. For her, love is simply unquestioned obedience. Ultimately, the picture seems to be about manipulation and how abuse can be distorted into pleasure when powerful, persuasive, wealthy people are involved. O even describes herself as a bird of prey hunting for a victim to coerce into duplicating her sordid experiences.

What is most shocking in this flimsy premise is how so many individuals willingly embrace these specific sexual perversions. It’s thoroughly unbelievable and fantastical. Plus, the storytelling is exceptionally weak, though it’s obvious that the majority of the film exists solely to show off Clery’s perpetually nude figure. At one point, the narrator goes so far as to mention the most horrifying torture chamber in the castle, the “enclosure,” but then dismisses it as something O never learns anything more about. How utterly ridiculous. A controversial, boundary-pushing, much-whispered-about, borderline pornographic endeavor, “The Story of O” clearly influenced other erotic works of cinema, even though it’s terribly silly and frivolous as moviegoing entertainment.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10