Quills  (2000)

 

 

 

Director:  Philip Kaufman

Starring:  Geoffrey Rush (The Marquis de Sade), Kate Winslet (Madeleine 'Maddy' LeClerc), Joaquin Phoenix (The Abbe du Coulmier), Michael Caine (Dr. Royer-Collard), Billie Whitelaw (Madame LeClerc), Patrick Malahide (Delben), Amelia Warner (Simone), Jane Menelaus (Renee Pelagie), Stephen Moyer (Prouix, the Architect), Tony Pritchard (Valcour), Michael Jenn (Cleante), Danny Babington (Pitou), George Yiasoumi (Dauphin), Stephen Marcus (Bouchon), Elizabeth Berrington (Charlotte).

Marquis de Sade at the Charenton Mental Asylum

 

Pretty good movie.  The film deals with the question of censorship and questions the assumed moral superiority of the censors as compared to those they censor. 

The film opens with a beautiful, aristocratic woman being guillotined in Paris, in the year 1794, during the French Revolution.   

The scene switches to some years later, where the Marquis de Sade is being held in the Charenton Asylum for the Insane.  Although he has been in a great deal of trouble for writing books involving sadism, de Sade smuggles the last chapter of Justine out of the Asylum to his publisher.  This is accomplished through the laundry woman, Madeline, who hides the writings in the laundry and then delivers them to a rider on a horse who takes them to the publisher.  The rider tells Madeline that publisher Masse wants another manuscript as soon as possible for there is a big demand for the writings of de Sade.

Napoleon is told of the new novel Justine and he tells his advisor to burn the book in public and then "shoot him (de Sade)."  But the advisor says that Napoleon does not want history to regard him as a tyrant and suggests that de Sade might be cured.  And the very man for the job is Dr. Royer-Collard.  The good doctor, however, "cures" people of mental illness through the use of torture. 

Dr. Royer-Collard becomes the supervisor of the Charenton Asylum for the insane.  He is super critical of the man who runs the Asylum, the Abbe du Coulmier, who he regards as just some silly "idealist."  He puts a great deal of pressure on the Abbe to stop de Sade's writing. 

The Abbe has his own secrets.  He is secretly in love with Madeline and she with him, even though he won't admit it. 

Dr. Royer-Collard heads over to the nunnery to pick up his bride, a 16 year old girl.  In bed with the girl, he reveals his own "sadistic" nature.  (Only a sadist could love torture so much.)  News of the doctor's behavior gets back to de Sade and he writes, produces and directs a theatrical play at the asylum that makes fun of the rapacious doctor.   Upset with the play, the doctor puts even more pressure on the Abbe. 

The Abbe becomes tougher and tougher with de Sade, taking more and more away from him until the man is naked in an empty cell.  But even that does not deter the clever de Sade.  This will bring another show-down and this time it takes a much more serious, sadistic turn. 

What is to become of de Sade in this ever more hostile asylum?  Will Dr. Royer-Collard finally be able to silence him?  And what of Madeline?  Will the good doctor take revenge on her for her helping de Sade?  And what will become of the Abbe?  Will the doctor make him still another victim? 

Those who believe in freedom of speech and hate the "moralistic," stuck-up, anal retentive censors will get a treat out of this tale.  In the movie, morally, the censors are ten times worse than those they censor.  If you are a moralist, stay away from this film.  If you are a liberal, enjoy. 

All the main actors were good: Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Caine.

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:

 

See Sade (2000) .

 

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