Imprisoned in the Charenton asylum near Paris, the Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) continues to produce his notorious erotic writings. When he finishes his latest novel, 'Justine', the young chambermaid Madeleine (Kate Winslet) smuggles it out to be published. The authorities are shocked by the book and demand that de Sade be silenced, but even after he has been tortured and his pens and papers taken away, the Marquis carries on the fight to express himself.
With bedroom eyes and the mischievous smirk of an insatiable roué, Geoffrey Rush is a perfect choice to play the Marquis de Sade in Quills
, adapted by Doug Wright from his own stage play and directed by Philip Kaufman. Imprisoned in France's Charenton asylum at the turn of the 18th century, de Sade is a stately court jester in dishevelled finery, and Rush imbues the role with the fierce urgency of a writer whose sexual fantasies are his sole remaining defence against repression and hypocrisy. Deprived of quill and ink, he writes with wine, then blood, then his own faeces--a descent into madness or an impassioned refusal to be silenced? Quills
embraces freedom of expression ("such beauty, such abomination", as one character notes) while affirming that all freedoms have a price.
De Sade smuggles manuscripts out of Charenton with help from Madeleine (Kate Winslet), a virginal laundress who relishes de Sade's scandalous prose--a divine irony since she was taught to read by asylum abbé Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), whose desire for Madeleine is suppressed by Catholic propriety. The delicate dynamic of this trio is shattered by the arrival of Royer-Collard (Michael Caine, appearing somewhat comatose), a righteous hypocrite appointed to silence de Sade once and for all. It's all very engrossing as a piece of theatre (which it still is, despite Kaufman's elegant filming), and although Wright's literate dialogue limits de Sade to zesty ripostes and sneering perversity, Rush's intensity ensures that the marquis's plight is no laughing matter. Quills has a point, makes it without condescension and knows the difference between madness and passion . --Jeff Shannon, Amazon.com
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