Most of the time, I attempt to ignore the fact that human beings are capable of an inexplicable amount of cruelty. However, for two hours of my life, I was forced to confront it. After all, it is the main theme of Stephen Frears' Dangerous Liaisons.
The movie's plot centers around a sexually driven battle of wits between the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich). Valmont brags to the Marquise about his intentions to seduce the virtuous Marie de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer) for sport. If he succeeds, the Marquise agrees to spend the night with him. Meanwhile, the Marquise also reveals her own intentions to seek revenge on her former lover by disgracing his young, naive fiancee, Cecile de Volanges (Uma Thurman).
Glenn Close's portrayal of the cold-hearted Marquise de Merteuil was flawless. As the embodiment of human depravity, the Marquise destroyed the life of everyone she touched. She was only happy when causing others' pain.
Both Michelle Pfeiffer's Madame de Tourvel and Uma Thurman's Cecile provided a perfect foils for the Marquise. Cecile had the innocence and beauty that only a sacrificial lamb could possess. Tourvel personified the kindness and morality of a saint. These positive attributes were only magnified by the pure evil of the Marquise de Merteuil.
John Malkovich's Valmont is equally as brilliant as Close's Marquise. The audience spends the majority of the movie viewing this pair as guilty accomplices. However, in the end, his performance challenges us to decide if this is, in fact, the case, or if he too was nothing more than another necessary victim of the Marquise.
Despite the superb acting, the true star of the film are the costumes and the cinematic. The extravagant clothing and furniture act as a strong visual representation the gluttonous excess of the rich. Visually, this film is stunning. There is a delightful irony in the ugly deeds of the people living in this beautiful world.
Dangerous Liaisons was based on the Pierre Choderlos de Laclos novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses
For a modern take on this classic, check out Roger Kumble's Cruel Intentions