Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

Reviewer: Shannon H.


I'll be frank: I love period pieces. I like the ones especially from A&E. Pride and Prejudice and Victoria and Albert are my favorites. Usually these kinds of films are generally clean for the most part, with a moral at the end of the story. This is not the case. Dangerous Liaisons is a period piece, all right; an R-rated period piece to be exact. With a title like Dangerous Liaisons, an R-rating is not surprising.


The film is based on a book written during 18th century France in the Enlightenment by Choderlos de Laclos.  Marquise de Merteuil (played excellently by Glenn Close, who seems to have a knack for female villains) is a bored French countess who decides to have a little fun involving an ex-lover, Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) and Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer). Marquise Merteuil makes a bet with Valmont (being the infamous ladies' man that he is) that he cannot seduce Madame de Tourvel, a devoutly religious woman. However, if Valmont succeeds in tempting the woman to sleep with him, he will be granted one night with Merteuil. The plot gets more complicated at this point, involving various affairs, subplots, and twists.


This is not a film for teenagers or anyone under the age of 18. There are a couple of explicit sex scenes as well as female and male nudity (during most sex scenes I did cover my eyes; I always do that in films like these, so I cannot report how graphic they are) and there is always talk about people sleeping with one another. Some women wear cleavage-revealing clothing. There is a scene where a courtesan tries to seduce Valmont (they stay clothed). There is only one instance of violence and it deals with two men dueling with swords. The film portrays the French aristocracy during the Enlightenment period where individuals moved away from religious thought and morality toward a more individualistic lifestyle. In the film, sex is seen as a pleasuring experience instead of an act between a married couple. The Bible warns us about this kind of hedonistic behavior and God makes it clear that sex is reserved for married couples only.


Dangerous Liaisons laughs at traditional values and morals as in the case of Valmont trying to have his way with the religious Madame Tourvel. There is a moral to the story. Hedonistic lifestyles like the ones portrayed here can lead to a life of utter despair, as seen in the case of Madame Tourvel, who, after sleeping with Valmont, becomes mentally unstable. However, the moral of the story cannot save this film. I did not enjoy watching this because of the excess sexual content and the characters' attitudes toward Christian faith and values. The film's production value was average and not worthy of any awards. If someone wants to get a clear picture of the history of the Enlightenment, I would suggest reading Choderlos de Laclos' book of the same name (or "The Age of Napoleon" by J. Christopher Herald) or renting the A&E film, Napoleon.

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