Historical Drama

17th November 1989, Los Angeles, USA

135 min.


© 1989 Renn Productions

“What a film! What screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière and director Milos Forman have achieved with this film which “Dangerous Liaisons” lacked somewhat is a real sense of the far-reaching tragic ramifications of playing with hearts in the name of fun.”

(Edward Lamberti, Film Salon, 2007)

Whose revenge is more devastating? The revenge of a man, or the revenge of a woman? How do people pay for playing around with the feelings of others? The charming widow the Marquise de Merteuil starts an unscrupulous game of revenge with her ageing lover Gercourt who is leaving her to marry her own cousin, the young Cecile who was raised in a convent.

The Marquise’s friend, the court seducer Vicomte de Valmont becomes the tool of her revenge. In order to punish Gercourt - who hankers after Cecile’s virginity - Vicomte is supposed to seduce Cecile before her wedding thus robbing Gercourt of his prize.

Forman’s adaptation of the famous novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses“ by Choderlos de Laclos focuses on the author’s reflection of French high society at the end of 18th century, and also considers the concept of absolute freedom, which can only be achieved through the separation from basic human values, loneliness, or death.

About the movie

The Marquise de Merteuil asks her former lover Vicomte de Valmont to seduce her fifteen-year-old cousin Cecile. At first, Valmont refuses because he is attracted to the beauty of the married and devout Madame de Tourvel, who is staying at his elderly aunt’s country estate. Offended, the Marquise makes a bet with Valmont: If he seduces the chaste wife of the older judge, he will be given access to the Marquise’s bedroom. If he fails, however, he has to enter the monastery.

Meanwhile, the Marquise abuses the trust of the naive Cecile’s childish love for the young music teacher Danceny, and offers to help the young couple realise their love. This complicated game of intrigues eventually turns against its initiators. Naive Danceny doesn’t want Cecile as his lover; he wants to marry her in all propriety, and this turn of events completely spoils the Marquise’s plans. In addition, Valmont falls in love with Madame de Tourvel. However, after Valmont seduces Madame de Tourvel, he isn’t able to accept her love, and he leaves her.

Valmont returns to the Marquise and demands his reward for winning their bet. He offers to marry her, but the Marquise is too proud and independent to accept his offer. As a result, the Marquise starts yet another round of mutual revenge, but this time there will be no winner.

Forman doesn’t present the two main characters as heartless manipulators; rather they are presented as vulnerable beings. Furthermore, it is clear that Forman understands their deeply felt emotions and tragicomic contradictions. His Marquise de Merteuil is the epitome of a cunning, emancipated woman, who refuses to live in thrall to a man. His Valmont is an eternal boy, who is scared of obligations to the point that he even sacrifices his only love. The highlight of the film is the sparkling conversation of both conspirators, which is full of tricky insight, soft sarcasm, and human vanity.

Even though Forman adapted the film from the popular story of court manners, the release date hindered its success. The film was released shortly after the premiere of a more successful adaptation of the same novel, “Dangerous Liaisons”, filmed by the British director Stephen Frears, which is based on the well-known theatre dramatization by Christopher Hampton. Since its initial release, Forman’s film has found an audience as well as critical acclaim. Critics appreciate Forman’s directorial touches, such as his typical emphasis on the seemingly uninteresting minutia of reality, and also the psychological motivation of his characters.


  • Whereas Forman and his screenwriter Jean-Claude Carrière based their film on the novel “Les Liaisons Dangereuses“(1782), Frears followed the well-known dramatization by Christopher Hampton.
  • The French director Roger Vadim also filmed the famous epistolary novel of Choderlos de Laclos “Les Liaisons Dangereuses“in 1959 which starred Gérard Philip and Jeanne Moreau.
  • Forman’s film script differs from the book. For example: In the novel, Cecile is raped by Valmont and suffers a miscarriage. In the Czech director’s film, Cecile is seduced willingly, and she confesses that she enjoyed it. At the end of the film we find out at her wedding that she is pregnant. Another example of divergence in the film is that the letters between Valmont and Merteuil, which lead to Merteuil’s downfall, are not mentioned. Also, Madame de Tourvel's future is less tragic; instead of dying of a broken heart, she returns to her forgiving and understanding older husband.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer was offered the role of the Marquise de Merteuil at the same time as she was offered the role of Madame de Tourvel in “Dangerous Liaisons”. In the end, the actress accepted the bigger role with director Stephen Frears.

Milos Forman about the movie

  • “I have spent a lot of time in pursuit of the intoxication and grace that occurs when the whole world falls away from you and your lover. This state, by necessity, never lasts, but while it does, it is like nothing else. In my version of the story, Valmont searches for this very feeling. He is a womanizer, a libertine with a long history of conquests, but only because he is seeking a deeper relationship. In an ironic twist of fate that he finds it with Madame de Tourvel, the prudish wife of a judge. It scares Valmont so much that he drives her away and throws himself into a suicidal duel.”
  • “The relationship between Valmont and Madame de Merteuil is like the strange flirtation that often develops between a director and his leading lady. I always project my most tender feelings and fantasies onto the women in my films. I show my leading lady my very real affection and encourage her to reveal her heart, her self, and her innermost thoughts. As she does, I fall in love with her in a peculiar way. We both know this odd emotional transaction helps the movie. But I hold myself back and dare her to tempt me more, to reach out to me more to charm me and show me that she will do anything I ask of her. At the same time, I am careful not to give in to the feeling between us I am afraid to appear naked and vulnerable before her. Our professional relationship requires a certain amount of mystery and authority on my part, but I always look forward to wrapping the production, when I’ll be able to consummate the fantasies. But when we finish shooting, I discover that the actress is no longer interested in me. I grounded my understanding of the enigmatic bond between Valmont and Madame de Merteuil in this strange push-pull of emotion, this unconsummated infatuation that I’d experienced through virtually all my films.”
  • “'Valmont' was a commercial flop, which should have put me in bed for months. But on the very day of the premiere The Velvet Revolution started in Czechoslovakia, and it was headed by my old schoolmate from Podebrady.” (writer and dissident Vaclav Havel, editor’s note)



  • Caen, Calvados

  • Abbaye aux Hommes (Monastery)
    • Marquise de Merteuill announces that Cecile’s engagement.
  • Bordeaux, Gironde

  • Madame de Tourvel shops at the open-air market.
  • Versailles, Yvelines

  • Château de Versailles (Royal Chappel)
    • Cecile tells Madame de Rosemonde that she is pregnant with Valmont’s child.
  • Nogent-sur Seine, Aube

  • Château de la Motte-Tilly
    • Madame de Rosemonde’s manor.  Valmont seduces Madame de Tourvel.
    • A night party in Madame de Rosemonde’s parlor.
    • Breakfast in Madame de Rosemonde’s garden.
  • Maincy, Seine-et Marne

  • Château de Vaux-le Vicomte
    • A picnic in Madame de Rosemonde’s garden where Valmont flirts with Cecile.
    • Valmont pretends to drown in a pond in order to impress Madame de Tourvel.
  • Paris

  • Hôtel des Ambassadeurs de Hollande - 47 rue Vieille du Temple
    • Valmont waits in Tourvel’s house for Madame de Tourvel.
  • Musée Nissim de Camondo - 63 rue de Monceau
    • Marquise de Merteuil’s reception hall. Madame de Volanges asks her the Marquise to keep an eye on Cecile.
    • Cecile pretends that she wants to go to the opera with her mother, but goes on a secret date with Danceny (Staircase).
    • Cecile confides her feelings for Danceny to Marquise de Merteuil.
    • Danceny teaches Cecile to play the harp in the music room.
  • Opéra Comique, Place Boieldieu
    • Cecile meets Valmont at the opera.
  • Épinay-sur-Seine

  • Epinary Studios
    • Marquise de Merteuil’s reception hall. Danceny asks Marquise de Merteuil to help him send a letter to Cecile.
    • Valmont stormes into a boudoir in Marquise de Merteuill’s manor.
  • Meaux, Seine-et-Marne

  • Cité épiscopale (Bishop’s City)
    • A Parisian market. Valmont leaves Marquise de Merteuil’s place after he catches her with Danceny.
    • Marquise de Merteuil meetings Danceny at the market.
  • Grandes Écuries, Chantilly, Oise

  • Musée Vivant du Cheval
    • Danceny and Gercourt duel in a barn.


Oscar® - Academy Awards
(62nd Annual)
Los Angeles
Oscar® Best Costume Design
Theodor Pistek
César Awards
(15th Annual)
César Best Costume Design
Theodor Pistek
Best Production Design
Pierre Guffroy
Best Director
Milos Forman
Best Poster
Pétin Laurent, Lufroy Laurent
BAFTA Awards (The British Academy of Film and Television Arts)
(9th Annual)
United Kingdom
BAFTA Film Best Costume Design
Theodor Pistek
London Film Critics Circle London
United Kingdom
ALFS Award (London Film Critics Circle Award) Newcomer of the Year
Annette Bening

Technical information

35 mm and 70 mm (film negative 35 mm)
Aspect ratio: 2,35:1
Sound mix: Dolby Stereo
Color (Technicolor)


Claude Berri and Renn Production present
Valmont Colin Firth
Merteuil Annette Bening
Tourvel Meg Tilly
Cécile Fairuza Balk
Madame de Volanges Sian Phillips
Gercourt Jeffrey Jones
Danceny Henry Thomas
Madame de Rosemonde Fabia Drake
Baron T. P.  McKenna
Baroness Isla Blair
Azolan Ian McNeice
Victorie Aleta Mitchell
José Ronald Lacey
Jean Vincent Schiavelli
Martine Sandrine Dumas
Casting Ellen Chenoweth, Maggie Cartier
Choreography by Ann Jacoby
Music composed and arranged by Christopher Palmer
Conducted by Sir Neville Marriner
Music Additional John Strauss
Costume Design Theodor Pistek
Set designer Pierre Guffroy
Edited by Alan Heim, Nena Danevic
Director of Photography Miroslav Ondricek
Screenplay by Jean-Claude Carrière
Adapted from the novel "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" by Choderlos de Laclos
Produced by Paul Rassam, Michael Hausman
Directed by Milos Forman
Abbot Sebastien Floche
The President of Tourvel Antony Carrick
Old-Clothes Man Murray Gronwall
1st Drunk Alain Frérot
2nd Drunk Daniel Laloux
3rd Drunk Milan Demjanenko
1st Knight of the Maltese Order John Arnold
2nd Knight of the Maltese Order Niels Tavernier
Mother superior Yvette Petit
Seneschal Richard de Burnchurch
The Blind Guitarist José Licenziato
Valet Ivan Palec
Production Supervisor Xavier Castano, Patrick Bordier
First Assistant Director Michael Hausman
Second Assistants Director Philippe Berenger, Jérôme Navarro
Screenplay Consultant Jan Novak, Anne Gyory
Sound Recordist Chris Newman
Supervising Music Editor John Strausss, s.m.e.
Supervising Sound Editor Maurice Schell
Makeup and Wig Designer Paul LeBlanc
Cameraman Jean Harnois
Casting France Margot Capelier, Gérard Moulèvier
General Manager Janou Shammas
Script Supervisor Suzanne Durrenberger
Financial Director Pierre Trémouille
Administration of Production Catherine Staub, Françoise Gavalda
Production Secretary Nathalie Farjon
Makeup Supervisor Jean-Pierre Eychenne, Paul Lemarinel
Hairdress Supervisor Pierre Vadé, Jean-Pierre Berroyer
Costume Coordinator Fabrizio Caracciolo
Costume Supervisor Sylvie Gautrelet, Bernadette Villard
Gaffer Jean-Claude Lebras
Key Grip René Strasser
Interiers Jacques-Albert Leguillon, Claude Suné
Stage Accessories René Donnenwirth, Marcel Laude
Location Managers Roland Jacob, Yves Seigneurel
Construction Supervisor René Loubet
First Set Designer Assistants Albert Rajau, Loula Morin, Martina Skala
Second Set Designer Assistants Jean-Michel Ducourty, Jean-Yves Rabier
First Camera Operator François Lauliac, Isabelle Scala
Second Camera Operator Brigitte Barbier
2nd Equipment Operator Joseph Ort-Snep
Steadicam Operator Noël Véry
Louma Operator Geoff Brown
Photographer Jaromir Komarek
Boom Operator David Sutton
Sound Assistant Jean-Marie Blondel
Wig Supervisor Fabienne Bressan, Jacqueline Stuffel
Makeup Assistants Cécile Colin, Marie-France Vassel, Sophie Harvey
Interpret Jarmila Buzkova
Production Assistants Philippe Delest, Jacques Frederix, Catherine Chouridis, Eric Hubert
Administration Assistants Nathalie Otte, Florence Courtois
Production Secretary Assistants Clare Sauzey, Chrisine Duffau
Script Assistant Katherine Enger
Assistant Choreography Patrice Arrat
Casting Marie-Sylvie Caillierez, Pascale Béraud, Lotfi Mokdad
Casting Assistant (USA) Cyrena Hausma
Casting Assistant (GB) Christian Taylor
Costumes Paule Mangenot, Carine Sarfati
Costumes and Accessories made by Gaelle Allen
Wardrobe Henriette Raz-Boffety, Eric Perron, Delphine Provent, Isabelle Le Lièvre, Simone Leroy, Isabelle Benoist, Pascale Paume, Benoit Distel, Vincent Gandon
Best Boy Philippe Cadeau
Electicians Pascal Lombardo, Sylvain Curial, Eric Baraillon, Roland Dondin, Jean-Marie Benoit
Key Grip Assistant Maurice Baltel
Grips Michel Strasser, Manuel Jover, Michel Podik
Groupmen Christian Thurot, Jacques Debaye
Key Grip Construction Jean-Paul Gaillot
Carpenter Jean Allon
Scene – Decorator Georges Robert
Scene – Decorator François Marcepoil
Scene – Decorator Jean Bretonnière
Upholsterer Robert Pilat
Locksmith Supervisor Gérard Guénier
Plasterer Supervisor André Marchandet
Sculptor Brigitte James
Assistant Location Managers Marcel Daudin
Accessories Furniture Jean Colin, Philippe Margottin
Post Production Supervisors Kevin J. Foxe, Heidi Vogel
Assistants Film Editor Marie-Pierre Renaud, Barbara Tulliver Carol Fleming
Apprentice Film Editor Pamela Reis, Megan Agosto
Music Editor Stuart Stanley
Sound Editors Harry Bolles, Richard Cirincione, Kevin Lee, Mark Rathaus, Ahmad Shirazi, Bruce Kitzmeyer
ADR Editor Deborah Wallach
Assistant Music Editor James Flatto
Assistants Sound Editors Rudolph Gaskins, Kenton Jakub, Susan Wagner
Assistant ADR Editor Randall Coleman
Apprentice Sound Editors Chris Fielder, Susan Sklar Friedman
Apprentice Music Editor Michelle Cooper
Recording Mixers Lee Dichter
Special Effects (France) SFX 2A - Michael Norman
Special Effects (G.B.) Garth Inns - Effects Associates
Horse Riding Consultant François Nadal
Horse Riding Consultant Assistant Marion Nadal
Dog Master André Noel
Weaponery Master Claude Carliez
Assistant Michael Carliez
Teacher of Harp Bertille Fournier
Teacher of Archery Jean-Louis Coutant
Writing Consultant Jacques Le Roux
Regisseur of Orchestra (France) Jean-Michel Tavernier
Catering Jacques Grousset - Locafete
Public Relations Josée Bénabent-Loiseau
Second Assistants Realisation Additional Pascal Bacumler, Isabelle Henry
Trainees coordinators Jean Fellous, Laurent Modiano
Assistants Executive Producers Martin Brossolet, Osceola Refetoff
Assistant to Mr Milos Forman Eva Schmitz
Director Apprentices Valérie Remise, Sylvie Duluc, Francis Barrois, Stanislas Robiolle, Jean-Benoit Doerr, Stephane Roux, Pierre Soubesire, Pierre Andrieu, Roland Riallot, Roland Farjon, Pierre Fournier, Patrice Gladel, Gérard Staub
Driver of Production Jean-Claude Souffir
Music recorded in CTS Studios, Wembley
Studio Davout, Paris
Clinton Recording Studio, New York
Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia Pennsylvania
Music recording engineers Dick Lewsey, Chuck Irwin
Costumes made ​​by Tirelli Costumi, Rome
Atelier Patrick Lebreton, Paris
Costumi G.P. 11, Rome
Bermans & Nathans Ltd., London
Neriteatromoda S.r.l., Rome
Patrimoine Costumes de l'Opéra de Paris
Les Costumes de Paris - Sartoria "Izzo" S.r.l., Rome
Wigs made ​​by Atelier Denis Poulain, Paris
Wig Specialities Ltd., London
Shoes made ​​by LCP Pompeii
Costume Jewelry made by E.Rancati, Rome
Hervé Hoguet, Paris
Martin du Daffoy, Paris
Alba s.r.l., Rome
Weaponery Régifilm, Paris
Horse's Team Ecuries Hardy, Ecuries J. R. Couture
Horses Georges Banche
Cars and Trucks Valem, Thrifty, Lev Location


"Tom Jones, Ouverture and Finale" François-André Danican Philidor
"Richard Cœur de Lion, Overture" André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry
"Le Sorciér, Overture" François-André Danican Philidor
"Prelude to Te Deum (Procession)" Marc-Antoine Charpentier
"Minuet from Quartet in F, Opus 50, N⁰ 5" Joseph Haydn
"Divertimento for Winds in B, K240" Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
"Les Oiseaux Elégants" François Couperin
"L'Apothéose de Lulli" François Couperin
"Les Songes de Dardanus" Jean-Philippe Rameau
"A Knight Riding Through The Glade" Baldassare Galuppi
"Love, if You Will Come To Me" Musique de Baldassari Galuppi (lyrics Anne Gyory and Hope Newman)
"Pity The Fate" François-André Danican Philidor (lyrics Anne Gyory and Hope Newman)

Music by

The Orchestra of Academy of St Martin In The Fields
with the Ambrosian Singers

Tour in external locations in France in:

Musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris
Château de La Motte-Tilly
Château de Versailles
Opéra Comique, Paris
The Living Horse Museum
Chantilly Stalles
The Hotel des Ambassadeurs de Hollande, Paris
Abbaye aux Hommes, Caen
Episcopal City, Meaux
The Chateau de Nandy
Studios Eclair, Epinay

We thank to

Le Musee Louis Vuitton
Valentine's Products
Assurances Générales de France
Christofle Orfevre SMO Bureautique
Mr. Lecoules, Antiques
Mr. Christian Tortu, Florist
Mr. Levesque, Paris Antiques
Insurance The Cabinet Chartier & Dardonville
Cameras Alga-Samuelson, Paris
Chevereau, Paris
Samuelson's Lighting Ltd., London
Electrical equipment Transpalux, Paris
Film stock Kodak Eastmancolor
Magnetic Film stock Pyral
Freight Forwarders Film Air Services, Paris
Total Export, New York
Laboratories, Photos Laboratoire Cornille, Paris
Publiphoto, Paris
Special effects Euro-Titres, Paris
Sound Records Sound One Corporation
Audio 24/25, Paris
Dolby Stereo®
Filmed in Panavision®
Panaflex® cameras and lenses from Panavision®
Eclair Laboratories, Paris
© 1989 Renn Productions
Co-production: Renn Productions (Paris) - Claude Berri
Timothy Burrill Productions (London)