Sunday, January 02, 2011
Dangerous Liaisons 1988
The Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) calls on her partner, the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich), to seduce Cécile de Volanges (Uma Thurman), the young daughter of Merteuil's cousin, Madame de Volanges (Swoosie Kurtz). By this, Merteuil hopes to have revenge on a former lover, the man to whom Cécile is promised in marriage. At first, Valmont refuses her proposition; he wants to seduce the virtuous Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is spending time at his aunt's house while her husband is abroad.
Upon discovering that Madame de Volanges had been secretly writing to Madame de Tourvel to warn her against his evil nature, Valmont changes his mind and decides to follow Merteuil's scheme. They take advantage of the fact that young Cécile is in love with her music teacher, the Chevalier Danceny (Keanu Reeves), who is penniless and therefore does not qualify in the eyes of her mother as a potential suitor.
At his aunt's, Valmont tricks Cécile into providing access to her bedchamber, where he rapes her as she pleads with him to leave. Over breakfast the next morning, he taunts a visibly distressed Cécile, and she runs from the room in tears. Later that night, he attempts to enter her room again, but she has barred her door and is seen sobbing within her chamber. Madame de Volanges, distraught by her daughter's sudden state of illness, calls upon Merteuil to speak to Cécile. Merteuil advises Cécile to consensually continue an affair with Valmont, telling her she should take advantage of all the lovers she can acquire in a life so constricted by her gender. Cécile takes her advice and later becomes pregnant with Valmont's child, but suffers a miscarriage, thus avoiding a scandal. Valmont meanwhile steadily targets his main prey, Madame de Tourvel, who, despite realizing his motives, eventually gives in to his tireless advances. However, Valmont, the lifelong womanizer, has fallen in love with Tourvel.
Merteuil had promised Valmont a night in her company should he be successful. Nevertheless, secretly jealous of Tourvel, she refuses to grant Valmont his prize unless he breaks off with Tourvel completely, and threatens to ruin his reputation as a debaucher. Valmont heeds her request and leaves Tourvel, who falls desperately ill. Valmont goes back to Merteuil, who in the meantime has taken Chevalier Danceny as her lover, and demands the immediate fulfillment of her promise. The Marquise refuses, and they declare war.
The Marquise reveals to Danceny that Valmont had seduced Cécile. Danceny and Valmont duel and, guilty and despairing, Valmont allows Danceny to fatally wound him. Before he dies, he asks Danceny to visit Tourvel and assure her of his love, and hands him a collection of letters from Merteuil. After hearing Valmont's message from Danceny, Madame de Tourvel dies. Danceny publishes Merteuil's letters, and she is booed and disgraced by the audience at the opera. Merteuil's face is permanently disfigured due to illness in the ending, though this is not readily apparent in the film version.