34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This review is from: Dangerous Liaisons  [DVD] (DVD)
The 18th Century setting of this excellent adaptation of the Christopher Hampton play in pre-revolutionary France, serves much better to amplify the story line than any modern day adaptation ever could. The seemingly villianous characters of the Marquis de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) with their plotting and machinations, are something that only that ghastly age could produce, with social divisons so wide it caused a revolution, as well as its culture of female repression. The sumptious costumes and cinematography emphasising the immense wealth and indolence of the aristocrats. The tight corsets of the women out of which they could barely breathe, emphasising the social restrictions that suffocated their spirits. That we know that the ultimate fate of these aristocrats was with "Madame de Guillotine" contributes to the atmosphere a subtle danger that pervades throughout the film, central to the plot of sexual intrigue and manipulation.
John Malkovich exudes charisma as Valmont and really does look like a french aristocrat from those times. It is unfortunate then that his seduction of Madame de Tourvelle (Michelle Pfeiffer) is conducted in the manner of a drill sargent, making his character as a lady killer a bit unbelievable. Michelle Pfeiffer and Glen Close give the best performances in the film. The torment of Madame de Tourville, played by Pfeiffer, struggling between her love for Valmont and everything she believes in, is acted with exquisite emotional honesty.
It is interesting that author Francois Choderlos de Laclos who wrote the original novel in 1782, being a man, had such a sympathetic insight into the inequalities and double standards the women of the time had to endure. The character of the Marquis de Merteuil being the anti-hero here as a supremely intelligent, capable woman in a society which offers her no outlet for her abilities, apart from destruction and manipulation. Although excellently acted, Glenn Close who plays her reminds me scarily of (a young) Margaret Thatcher!
It is probably the most definative adaptation of the original novel we are ever likely to get, with its message of the timeless constancy of candid, unsophisticated human nature, with its flaws, desires and vunerabilities. A film version with Lindsey Duncan and Alan Rickman as Merteuil and Valmont respectively (who were in the original Broadway version) would have been awesome. But sadly not meant to be. That aside, this version is pretty close to perfection.