“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.”
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)
New York Times (Janet Maslin)
Chicago Sun-Times (Roger Ebert)
Washington Post (Rita Kempley)
Rolling Stone (Peter Travers)
ImDb.com (Alan Jay)
Urban Cinefile (Andrew L. Urban)
filmsgraded.com (Brian Koller)
Chicago Reader (Jonathan Rosenbaum)
Christian Science Monitor (David Sterritt)
- Abbaye aux Hommes (Monastery)
- Marquise de Merteuill announces that Cecile’s engagement.
- Madame de Tourvel shops at the open-air market.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
Best Costume Design
Best Costume Design
Best Production Design
Pétin Laurent, Lufroy Laurent
|BAFTA Awards (The British Academy of Film and Television Arts)
Best Costume Design
|London Film Critics Circle
|ALFS Award (London Film Critics Circle Award)
Newcomer of the Year
Technical information35 mm and 70 mm (film negative 35 mm)
Aspect ratio: 2,35:1
Sound mix: Dolby Stereo
|Claude Berri and Renn Production present
|Madame de Volanges
|Madame de Rosemonde
|T. P. McKenna
|Ellen Chenoweth, Maggie Cartier
|Music composed and arranged by
|Sir Neville Marriner
|Alan Heim, Nena Danevic
|Director of Photography
|Adapted from the novel "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" by Choderlos de Laclos
|Paul Rassam, Michael Hausman
|The President of Tourvel
|1st Knight of the Maltese Order
|2nd Knight of the Maltese Order
|Richard de Burnchurch
|The Blind Guitarist
|Xavier Castano, Patrick Bordier
|First Assistant Director
|Second Assistants Director
|Philippe Berenger, Jérôme Navarro
|Jan Novak, Anne Gyory
|Supervising Music Editor
|John Strausss, s.m.e.
|Supervising Sound Editor
|Makeup and Wig Designer
|Margot Capelier, Gérard Moulèvier
|Administration of Production
|Catherine Staub, Françoise Gavalda
|Jean-Pierre Eychenne, Paul Lemarinel
|Pierre Vadé, Jean-Pierre Berroyer
|Sylvie Gautrelet, Bernadette Villard
|Jacques-Albert Leguillon, Claude Suné
|René Donnenwirth, Marcel Laude
|Roland Jacob, Yves Seigneurel
|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
|2nd Equipment Operator
|Fabienne Bressan, Jacqueline Stuffel
|Cécile Colin, Marie-France Vassel, Sophie Harvey
|Philippe Delest, Jacques Frederix, Catherine Chouridis, Eric Hubert
|Nathalie Otte, Florence Courtois
|Production Secretary Assistants
|Clare Sauzey, Chrisine Duffau
|Marie-Sylvie Caillierez, Pascale Béraud, Lotfi Mokdad
|Casting Assistant (USA)
|Casting Assistant (GB)
|Paule Mangenot, Carine Sarfati
|Costumes and Accessories made by
|Henriette Raz-Boffety, Eric Perron, Delphine Provent, Isabelle Le Lièvre, Simone Leroy, Isabelle Benoist, Pascale Paume, Benoit Distel, Vincent Gandon
|Pascal Lombardo, Sylvain Curial, Eric Baraillon, Roland Dondin, Jean-Marie Benoit
|Key Grip Assistant
|Michel Strasser, Manuel Jover, Michel Podik
|Christian Thurot, Jacques Debaye
|Key Grip Construction
|Scene – Decorator
|Scene – Decorator
|Scene – Decorator
|Assistant Location Managers
|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
|Harry Bolles, Richard Cirincione, Kevin Lee, Mark Rathaus, Ahmad Shirazi, Bruce Kitzmeyer
|Assistant Music Editor
|Assistants Sound Editors
|Rudolph Gaskins, Kenton Jakub, Susan Wagner
|Assistant ADR Editor
|Apprentice Sound Editors
|Chris Fielder, Susan Sklar Friedman
|Apprentice Music Editor
|Special Effects (France)
|SFX 2A - Michael Norman
|Special Effects (G.B.)
|Garth Inns - Effects Associates
|Horse Riding Consultant
|Horse Riding Consultant Assistant
|Teacher of Harp
|Teacher of Archery
|Jacques Le Roux
|Regisseur of Orchestra (France)
|Jacques Grousset - Locafete
|Second Assistants Realisation Additional
|Pascal Bacumler, Isabelle Henry
|Jean Fellous, Laurent Modiano
|Assistants Executive Producers
|Martin Brossolet, Osceola Refetoff
|Assistant to Mr Milos Forman
|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
|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
|Costume Jewelry made by
|Hervé Hoguet, Paris
|Martin du Daffoy, Paris
|Alba s.r.l., Rome
|Ecuries Hardy, Ecuries J. R. Couture
|Cars and Trucks
|Valem, Thrifty, Lev Location
|"Tom Jones, Ouverture and Finale"
|François-André Danican Philidor
|"Richard Cœur de Lion, Overture"
|"Le Sorciér, Overture"
|François-André Danican Philidor
|"Prelude to Te Deum (Procession)"
|"Minuet from Quartet in F, Opus 50, N⁰ 5"
|"Divertimento for Winds in B, K240"
|Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
|"Les Oiseaux Elégants"
|"L'Apothéose de Lulli"
|"Les Songes de Dardanus"
|"A Knight Riding Through The Glade"
|"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)
|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
|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
|Assurances Générales de France
|Christofle Orfevre SMO Bureautique
|Mr. Lecoules, Antiques
|Mr. Christian Tortu, Florist
|Mr. Levesque, Paris Antiques
|The Cabinet Chartier & Dardonville
|Samuelson's Lighting Ltd., London
|Magnetic Film stock
|Film Air Services, Paris
|Total Export, New York
|Laboratoire Cornille, Paris
|Sound One Corporation
|Audio 24/25, Paris
|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)