The main characters are a married couple. They have been married for 15 years, and are quite unhappy. The story starts with the wife, Magda, having a nervous breakdown and then deciding that they should get a divorce.
It turns out that Magda has never dared to tell her husband about her sexuality. Thus their sex life has never worked for her (and not for him either, as implied by an early scene where she pushes him away while looking sad). She's a masochist, with an erotic need for pain.
As they start experimenting with BDSM, the couple's relationship and Magda's mental health improve immensely. However, at this time, BDSM was illegal in Belgium: the law didn't distinguish between consensual play and spousal abuse. And Magda's husband happens to be a judge. Eventually his political enemies find out and use the information to destroy him.
Has examples of
- Abuse Mistake: The public prosecutor mistakes the couple's BDSM practice for abuse. It's never made clear if he believed his own accusations, or if he merely used her bruises as an excuse to attack the judge.
- Bondage Is Bad: Magda's initial self-image.
- Brains and Bondage: Magda blooms as an artist as she explores her sexuality.
- Casual Kink: While Magda, her husband and most of the people they meet never reach this level, some of them do have a very relaxed attitude to the couple's sexuality.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Discussed toward the end, as Magda points out both that the DSM used to consider homosexuality a disease and that she was actually abused in a previous marriage-and the authorities, who are now trying to nail her current husband on wrongful charges, didn't care at all then.
- Erotic Film: Well, duh!
- Heteronormative Crusader: The villain-it is implied that he's of the Straw Hypocrite kind, using the BDSM only as an excuse to attack the judge.
- Idealized Sex: Debated-while Magda's masochism makes her enjoy pain, she's not at all into roleplaying or submission or humiliation or anything like that. Of course, the authorities fail to understand this distinction, maybe on purpose.
- Internalized Categorism: Magda initially hates herself for being a masochist, thus ruining her own life as well as making her husband miserable. This turns around early in the movie, but the character had already wasted decades of her life when the story began.
- Parental Sexuality Squick: Magda's daughter gets this hard, disowning her parents for having a sex life. No, not for having a kinky sex life-but for having a sex life at all. It's indicated that she eventually snaps out of it.
- Safe, Sane, and Consensual: Discussed, as Magda is trying to explain the difference between spousal abuse and what her husband has been doing with her.
- Sex Is Evil, and I Am Horny: That Magda initially had this mindset seems to be the source of most of their problems.