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Original promotional poster
Directed byOlivier Assayas
Written byOlivier Assayas
Produced byXavier Giannoli
CinematographyDenis Lenoir
Edited byLuc Barnier
Music bySonic Youth
Jim O'Rourke
Release dates
  • 19 May 2002 (2002-05-19) (Cannes)
  • 6 November 2002 (2002-11-06) (France)
  • 19 September 2003 (2003-09-19) (United States)
Running time
115 minutes
  • French
  • English
  • Japanese
Budget$7.2 million
Box office$462,976

Demonlover is a 2002 French neo-noir thriller film written and directed by Olivier Assayas, and starring Connie Nielsen, Charles Berling, Chloë Sevigny, and Gina Gershon. The plot focuses on the entanglement between various corporations vying over the financial control of an interactive 3-D hentai company, resulting in a power struggle that culminates in violence and espionage.

It features a musical score by Sonic Youth. It premiered at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival,[1] although it was more widely released several months later.

The film contains various themes, including desensitization to violence and the problematic nature of globalization. Upon its theatrical release in the United States, it was rated R for strong violence, sexual content and some language. It was released in both R-rated and unrated director's cut versions on DVD.

The film is primarily in French, with some scenes in English and Japanese. It is considered an example of New French Extremity by some journalists. In recent years the film has gained a cult following.[2]


Diane de Monx is an executive trying to negotiate a deal to acquire the rights to the productions of a Japanese anime studio, which will soon include three-dimensional hentai, for the French-based Volf Corporation. To facilitate the acquisition, she eliminates her superior, Karen, and assumes control of her portfolio, her business partner Hervé, and her assistant Elise. Elise, however, despises Diane and works to frustrate her negotiations at every opportunity. Diane and Hervé travel to Tokyo to close the deal, and they enjoy a sexual flirtation.

Having acquired the rights, the Volf Corporation attempts to enter into a deal for distribution with an American Internet company called Demonlover, represented by Elaine Si Gibril. Diane, however, has actually been a spy all along for Demonlover's main competition, Mangatronics, meeting with a mysterious handler on occasion to pass along information on the Demonlover deal. Meanwhile, Diane discovers that Elaine's company is a front for a website called the Hellfire Club, an interactive torture site on the dark web that broadcasts extreme sadomasochism in real-time. When confronted with these charges, Demonlover praises Hellfire Club but claims no ties to it whatsoever.

In order to seal the deal for Mangatronics, Diane is sent by her handler to steal data from the computer in Elaine's hotel room. Before Diane can download the information, Elaine enters the hotel room and notices Diane's presence. A violent struggle ensues, and Diane slashes Elaine's throat with a piece of broken glass before suffocating her with a pillow in a supply closet outside the room. Elaine briefly regains consciousness and bludgeons Diane, before dying due to blood loss. When Diane awakens, she is in Elaine's hotel room, and everything is completely cleaned up. There is no evidence of a murder, burglary, or struggle.

Diane subsequently meets with Elise, whom she drives home during a rainstorm. In conversation, Elise implies that Diane should be scared for her life before demanding to be dropped off on the side of the street. Returning to the Volf offices alone, Diane manages to log onto the Hellfire Club website, which displays disturbing footage and images of women being sexually tortured. Karen arrives at the office, and also gives Diane an ominous warning, confirming that Demonlover does indeed own and operate the Hellfire Club website. Karen leaves behind a camcorder tape for Diane to view, which shows Elise and several men cleaning up the crime scene from Elaine's murder, as well as carrying an unconscious Diane back to her room. Diane gleans that Elise is in fact a spy for Demonlover, working under Hervé, who is also a covert associate.

Elise uses Diane's murder of Elaine as blackmail against her, forcing Diane to acquiesce and become part of the Hellfire Club. She escorts Diane to a mansion in the country, where she drugs her. Through flashbacks, it is revealed that Diane also murdered Hervé during a rape attempt after the two went on a date. Some time later, Diane and Elise are flown by helicopter to a desert locale, where Diane again loses consciousness. When she awakens, she finds herself in a dungeonlike room, on a mattress, dressed in a vinyl suit and with a wig. Beside the mattress there are pictures of Diana Rigg as Mrs. Peel in The Avengers. Diane attempts to escape, and is almost successful. However, upon driving her getaway car she is involved in a car accident. The escape fails.

Some time later, in the United States, a teenage boy logs onto the Hellfire Club with his father's credit card. He then fills out a detailed fantasy of what he would like done to the woman on the screen, who turns out to be Diane, bound and wearing in a bondage suit. The boy allows his fantasy to play in the background as he completes his science homework, while Diane stares helplessly at the camera from her chamber.


  • Connie Nielsen as Diane de Monx
  • Charles Berling as Hervé Le Millinec
  • Chloë Sevigny as Elise Lipsky
  • Dominique Reymond as Karen
  • Jean-Baptiste Malartre as Henri-Pierre Volf
  • Gina Gershon as Elaine Si Gibril
  • Edwin Gerard as Edward Gomez
  • Thomas M. Pollard as Avocat américain
  • Abi Sakamoto as Kaori—la traductrice
  • Naoko Yamazaki as Eiko
  • Nao Omori as Shoji (as Nao Ohmori)
  • Jean-Pierre Gos as Verkamp—Contact Diane
  • Julie Brochen as Gina—Amie de Diane
  • Randall Holden as Ray
  • Alexandre Lachaux as Erwan—Broker #1


Critical response[edit]

Reviews were mixed. Rotten Tomatoes reports a 51% approval rating based on 79 reviews, with a weighted average of 5.59/10. The site's consensus describes the film as "A stylish but convoluted mess without any sympathetic characters".[3] Metacritic gives the film a score of 64 out of 100 based on 28 critics, indicating "Generally favorable reviews".[4]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave a mixed review of the film, summarizing: "There's an ironic twist, but the movie hadn't paid for it and didn't deserve it...  No one seems to question the fact that they all play to make money by torturing people. It's all just business. As a metaphor for certain tendencies in modern commerce, this may be intended, but somehow I don't think so. I think Demonlover is so in love with its visuals and cockeyed plot that it forgets to think about the implications."[5]

Home media[edit]

Assayas has claimed that he trimmed at least 10 minutes of footage out of the film after its premiere at Cannes. The film was further edited for release in the United States to obtain an R rating due to the highly explicit and sexual nature of some of the scenes. Additionally, this R-rated release featured heavy pixelization over the hentai scenes shown at the Japanese animation studio.

When the film was released on Region 1 DVD on March 16, 2004, it was in this R-rated cut. Several months later, a two-disc "unrated director's cut" appeared. This cut removed most of the hentai pixelization (although penetration scenes are still blurred) and restored some scenes of footage from the Hellfire Club website. This cut runs 117 minutes as opposed to the R-rated version's running time of 115 minutes. This version was released on Region 4 DVD with an R18+ rating and later aired on Australian television with the equivalent AV15+ rating. As a bonus feature on the two-disc edition, a secret code (found in the text printed on the DVD itself) can be entered to gain access to the unedited Hellfire Club footage.

In December 2020, Janus Films announced they would be screening a newly restored print of the film in February 2021, pending a DVD and Blu-ray release through the Criterion Collection.[6]


One of the themes of the film is the desensitization to violent or disturbing imagery, both real and simulated, in the modern viewer. This is evident from the first scene of the movie, in which high-salaried executives are discussing a business deal on an airplane, completely unfazed by the explosions on the small video screens hanging from the ceiling. When Diane watches schoolgirl pornography in her hotel room in Japan or first checks out the Hellfire Club website, she hardly even stirs. Similar non-reactions can be seen in the characters when the two- and three-dimensional hentai animations are demoed, Elise plays video games in her bedroom, and in the final scene of the film.


The film's soundtrack album features eight tracks by the band Sonic Youth, as well as songs by Goldfrapp, Death in Vegas, Dub Squad, Soulfly, and Darkthrone.[7] It was released in 2002.


  1. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Demonlover". Archived from the original on 22 August 2011.
  2. ^ Tobias, Scott. "Demonlover". AV Club. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
  3. ^ "Demonlover (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  4. ^ "Demonlover Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 12 July 2019.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Demonlover". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020.
  6. ^ "Demonlover". Janus Films. Archived from the original on 23 December 2020.
  7. ^ "Sonic Youth: Demonlover OST". Retrieved 2015-09-25.

External links[edit]