Sanctuary 2023 Film Review

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Zachary Wigon’s Sanctuary: A Captivating Exploration of BDSM

The Misrepresentation of BDSM in Mainstream Cinema

In the realm of mainstream cinema, BDSM has often been inaccurately portrayed as a sign of broken psyches and deviant behaviors. Filmmakers have frequently failed to conduct proper research, resulting in mixed messages about the effects of BDSM on human relationships. This misrepresentation has led to misconceptions and misunderstandings among the general public. However, more recent endeavors have emerged, exploring into the scorching intensity of eroticism with a more accurate depiction. One such film is “Sanctuary,” directed by Zachary Wigon, which navigates the complexities of BDSM while creating an immersive experience for the audience.

The Perfect Balance of Sensuality and Setting

From the moment “Sanctuary” begins, the audience is enveloped in a spell cast by Ariel Marx’s mesmerizing score. It leads us through a vivid haze, setting the stage for a tale that intertwines closeness with foreboding, intimacy with sorrow. The on-screen pairing of rising stars Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualley further enhances the film’s allure. Abbott portrays Hal Porterfield, the heir to the Porterfield Hotel empire, while Qualley takes on the role of Rebecca, a dominatrix. The film’s title itself encapsulates the essence of its themes: a safe space for sexual expression, connection, and lust.

A Twist on Traditional BDSM

Contrary to expectations, Rebecca’s dominatrix persona does not rely on whips, chains, or leather. Instead, her approach is mentally stimulating, taking pleasure in verbally berating her clients while captivating them with her piercing gaze. The dynamic between Rebecca and Hal transcends the typical client-vendor relationship and evolves into something deeper. Their encounters become akin to therapy sessions, providing both psychological fulfillment and financial compensation. The balance they achieve in their roles creates a fifty-fifty split of psychological attainment, wherein boundaries and role-playing lead to genuine emotions and pleasure.

An Intense Psychological Chess Match

As the story unfolds, tensions escalate between Hal and Rebecca. What initially starts as a BDSM session transforms into a twisted psychological chess match. Each player strives to be in control, complicating their relationship and intensifying the narrative. The dynamic between Hal and Rebecca often feels like a theatrical play, amplified by the film’s enclosed setting and dialogue-driven plot. Cinematographer Ludovica Isidori skillfully captures this enclosed atmosphere, adding to the unpredictability and intensity of the love game they engage in.

Talented Performances by Abbott and Qualley

“Sanctuary” owes much of its success to the remarkable talent of Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualley. Both actors showcase their prowess and steadily solidify their place as captivating screen presences in today’s cinema. Abbott navigates the complexities of Hal’s character with precision, portraying contradictory facets with depth. Hal exudes strength and confidence in certain moments, but when faced with the venomous Rebecca, his weaknesses are exposed. Qualley, on the other hand, effortlessly slips in and out of her character’s dominatrix persona, revealing the inner workings of Rebecca’s mind as she strategizes her next move. The chemistry between Abbott and Qualley is palpable, further enhancing the film’s captivating narrative.

A Realistic Approach to Dominant-Submissive Relationships

“Sanctuary” distinguishes itself by offering a more realistic portrayal of dominant-submissive relationships. The film delves into the shifting dynamics between Hal and Rebecca, meticulously exploring how their bond evolves over their encounters held in a pricey hotel room. It prompts the audience to consider the extent of their knowledge of one another and ponder the true nature of their connection. While the film navigates through plot contrivances and cinematic exaggerations, it still serves as an entertaining feature that sheds light on the intricacies of BDSM relationships.


Zachary Wigon’s “Sanctuary” breaks free from the conventional and poorly researched portrayals of BDSM in mainstream cinema. Through the dynamic performances of Christopher Abbott and Margaret Qualley, the film delves into the complexities of dominant-submissive relationships, exploring the psychological and emotional aspects that underpin such connections. With its sensually captivating narrative and immersive atmosphere, “Sanctuary” stands as a remarkable cinematic exploration of eroticism, challenging misconceptions and offering a glimpse into the alluring world of BDSM.

Frequently Asked Questions about “Sanctuary”

1. Is “Sanctuary” based on a true story?

No, “Sanctuary” is a work of fiction. However, it draws inspiration from real-life BDSM dynamics to create a compelling and immersive narrative.

2. How did the director, Zachary Wigon, research BDSM for the film?

Zachary Wigon consulted with experts in the BDSM community and extensively studied real-life experiences and testimonies to ensure an accurate representation of the dominant-submissive relationship portrayed in “Sanctuary.”

3. Does the film provide a fair and balanced view of BDSM?

“Sanctuary” aims to shed light on the complexities of BDSM relationships and challenges the misconceptions that often surround them. While no single film can fully capture the diversity within the BDSM community, “Sanctuary” offers a thought-provoking exploration of this realm.

4. Are there any graphic scenes in “Sanctuary”?

While “Sanctuary” explores erotic themes, it primarily focuses on the psychological aspects of BDSM. The film does contain some sexually suggestive moments, but it prioritizes the emotional journey of the characters rather than explicit visuals.

5. What message does “Sanctuary” aim to convey?

“Sanctuary” encourages the audience to question societal norms and judgments surrounding unconventional relationships. It aims to foster understanding and empathy while showcasing the intricacies of human connections and the universality of desire.