Dangerous Liaisons is a drama based on the 18th century French novel, “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. This film is about control, manipulation and revenge with the primary weapon to extract these elements being seduction. The character from which the entire plot spins is Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close). Merteuil is portrayed as a strong, influential and wealthy woman but behind closed doors, she is a sex hungry manipulator. As the film progresses, it is revealed that she feels that because women are dominated by men, she can switch the roles and use sex to control and dominate men.
The plot starts when Merteuil wants to extract revenge on an ex-lover. She does this by soliciting a cunning womanizer, Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) to seduce and ruin her ex-lovers fiancée, Cecile de Volanges (Uma Thurman). Coincidently, Volanges is the daughter of Merteuil’s cousin, Madame de Volanges (Swoosie Kurtz). In return, Merteuil offers an entire ...view middle of the document...
The next day at breakfast Valmont continues to antagonize Volanges until she becomes completely unnerved. Madame Volanges, in an attempt to help her daughter, asks Merteuil to talk to the young Volanges. During this conversation, Merteuil continues her manipulation by advising Volanges to use sex as a way to control men and to continue her affair with Valmont. Meanwhile, Valmont falls in love with Tourvel as she finally succumbs to his advances.
Valmont has now obtained his written evidence of his seduction and goes back to Merteuil to collect on his deal. Merteuil has since became jealous of Valmont and Tourvel and denies him his night with her until he breaks off the affair. Heartbroken, Valmont coldly rejects Tourvel where she is overcome with grief and becomes physically sick.
To keep the web of deceit weaving, Merteuil turns Danceny into her lover. Having control over him, Merteuil tells Danceny of Valmonts seduction of Volanges. In a jealous rage, Danceny challenges Valmont to a duel where Valmont, wracked with guilt, allows Danceny to strike and kill him. Before Valmont dies, he hands Danceny a stack of letters which reveal Merteuil’s scheme and asks Danceny to tell Tourvel that he truly loved her. When Danceny relays Valmonts message to Tourvel, she calmly dies.
Danceny also spreads Merteuil’s letters around town to reveal the scheme. Shortly thereafter, Merteuil appears at an opera balcony. Knowing Merteuil’s truth, the entire theater goes silent until everyone starts booing her. Feeling disgraced, Merteuil leaves, stumbling as she departs as if knowing she has lost control. The film closes with Merteuil suffering a breakdown as she stares into her mirror while removing her makeup, ruined by revenge and manipulation she started.
This story is common of the 18th century French genre called libertine or erotic novel. In relation to the book, the movie shows letters of warning, deceit and revelation are passed around but the viewer never actually knows their content. Instead, the viewer is left to envision their content. In contrast, 18th century literature is highly descriptive. I could see the book using these letters as an axis by which the plot is built using descriptive details. These details would keep a reader engaged the same way their lack of details keeps the movie viewer guessing.