LITERATURE ON CINEMA: Dramatical delirium, theatrical Limbo and the sin of letters in “Dangerous Liaisons”

The story of “Dangerous Liaisons” is about great seduction, white lies and big human tragedies that occurred in the name of love. Theatre plays, opera nights, familiar faces, suspicious talks, and cruel intentions follow the erotic story written to describe society. Although the French author of the novel, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, wrote this “unfinished” classic during the French Revolution, it seems this book corresponds with the 21st century just as fine. (“How little the world changes?”) Written in an epistolary style, as a collection of letters that tell the story, the book explores the most intimate parts of its characters’ souls. The movie, from the year 1988, directed by Stephen Frears successfully presents an adaptation of the novel which is not easy to dramatise and put on the movie screen because of its form. This period piece describing the Enlightenment era, “The Age of Reson”, takes a great influence from philosophers and novelists of their time rising virtue and valuing liberty and tolerance. Contradictory, huh?



The action takes place in France, in aristocratic households outside of Paris. The aristocratic lifestyle is reflected through lace and corsets, chariots and porcelain, and fragrance in the air. A complex story starts to occur between little people. Taecups on writing desks, novelty, betrayal and cruelty dive deep into the world of love games, and great desires. Shiny thread on clothing, just as Apple of Eden brings new plots in the time of love and revenge. In Monocle, strict morals, theatrical romance, elegant palaces, and a story of serious manipulation of false generosity and integrity unfold beyond naive aristocratic drama. Each character tries to keep love alive in a different way.




Humorous characters of miserable lives caricatured in classical dramatic experience are the main element of the movie. Their dishonesty and the way they get threatened, describe the feeling of “shame and pain that can only be felt once” – when private becomes public. They are trapped in their own cages and those creatures of affair become victims of their own souls.



Marquise de Merteuil played by Glenn Close doesn’t like to be ordered around. She is an experienced woman with a sad story because of which she learned to play the game of world seduction the best. The wicked lady that built herself to stand strongly and unhinged is living detached, inside the illusion of a ruler till the last moment, before the great fall. Enjoying possessing humans with her silly little mind games her character presents pure evil.

Vicomte de Valmont is ex-lover of the Marquise de Merteui, casanova of his time, the best in his skill to seduce women. He (played by the infamous John Malkovich) “never opens his mouth without first calculating what damage he can do”. He is the rival of all husbands, Cupid’s evil godchild and an aristocrat of false celibacy. Even though he cannot accept it, but his demeanour suddenly changes when his stare recognises the lovely eyes of Madame Marie the Turvel.


Cecilie de Volanges (Uma Thurman) – a young girl, described as a rosebud presents the symbol of purity and innocence which is soon to be lost in the madness of society she finds herself to be. Naive and childish, her character, suffers consciously and subconsciously, with her trustfulness and because she is taking the advice from an evil enemy presented as a caring friend she is destined to be ruined.



Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny (Keanu Charles Reeves) is a music teacher and young blood, intellectual in love with Cecilie. Described as harmless his battles are fought till the very end.


Madame Marie de Turvel (Michelle Marie Pfeiffer) is a beautiful soul, with a Christian spirit and it seemed she would be the one that got away, from the madness of seduction war. But sadly she becomes the one that suffered the most, even though her mind was bright and her soul was clear.


It is very interesting that director Frears plays with the first and final scene of the film. At the beginning of the film, in the opening scene we see a lady Merteiul looking at herself proudly in the mirror, fulfilled with the life she made for herself and all the games of love she had won by far. But when the ending of the movie occurs we see the complete contrast, absolute change from the start where In the fist of rage lady Marteuil breaks the table mirror she used to look at. Without a mirror, she is taking her makeup off defeated and devastated releasing she lost everything she had – dangerous love, social status and whole life in a matter of moments. Just like scattered pearls.



As a Place of prestige and a “form of theatre in which music is a fundamental component and dramatic roles are taken by singers”, opera in this movie, as well as in the book, presents an important motif and infamous characteristic to belong to a privileged society of the 18th century. Even though intrigue does not occur in a musical box of the orchestra pit and theatrical stage, but between the audience’s lounge seatings on the balcony, which is reserved for the higher class of the system. This artistic expression provides a deeper picture of world mechanisms. Like Shakespeare said in his work “As you like it”: “All the world’s a stage And all the men and women merely players”.


God is hidden behind the curtains and the devil lays on bed sheets, false philanthropy, tournaments and sufferings, future victims and already the fallen ones become witnesses and take part in uncovering what people are trying to hide. Reputation is being ruined with few simple words, love occurs with a couple of deep staring looks and life is lost with the one touch of the sword. The skill of a woman and the Audacity of a man made a pair of lovers Valmont and Merteuil destroy everything around them and in the end themselves as well. They are the duo that makes everyone suffer.

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