Saturday, August 4, 2012

Part XX: Dangerous Liaisons vs Cruel Intentions

Spoilers from
Les Liaisons Dangereuses
Cruel Intentions

In 1999 a movie titled Cruel Intentions came out. While I was only thirteen or fourteen during that time and thus didn't have a chance to see it, in adult hood I started to watch it and somehow loved it. I think I have a penchant for watching darker movies and liking them such as Virgin Suicides as well as Cruel Intentions. Later on I've read on wikipedia that this movie is taken from a novel called Dangerous Liaisons, and when I read about that book, I became more tempted to read it. Dark side of love, destruction, so forth. I thought there would be similarities, and I also thought the novel would be fascinating. First I will discuss my impressions of the book followed by the movie.

The version I had, Penguin Classics, reads in a very modern language and is written in an epistle form. There are basically letters written from one character to another. The characters include Cecile de Volanges, Marquise de Merteuil, Vicomte de Valmont, Madame de Tourvel, Chevalier Danceny, Madame de Volanges, and so forth. However, with so many characters as well as the epistle form made it confusing for me and if it weren't for the movie, I don't think I would have understand a lot of it. The main perpetrators are Vicomte de Valmont and Marquise de Merteuil, who orchestrate this game just for fun and to get back at a local for dumping Marquise de Merteuil. (The novel was written in 1700s, shortly before the Revolution swept France away in 1780s.) Both enjoy the reputation as ruining other people's names and whatnot, as well as there are hints that the two are sometimes lovers. Madame de Volanges as well as Marquise de Merteuil and Madame de Tourvel are friends; that is Madame de Volanges asks Marquise de Merteuil to look after Cecile de Volanges in hopes that she will become like her (popular and all that. Keep in mind that aside from Cecile de Volanges and Chevailier Danceny, all the characters are about the same age.) Thus the web begins: Marquise de Merteuil sics Vicomte de Valmont on Cecile de Volanges, meanwhile Vicomte de Valmont, looking for more of a challenge goes after the pious and virtuous Madame de Tourvel. Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont seduce and coerce other characters to their desires as they wish. I will not mention how the story ends, but lets say there is bitterness at the end.

The movie begins with Sebastian Valmont (in the book he's Vicomte de Valmont) at a psychologist's office. Just like in the novel, he and Katherine (Marquise de Merteuil) really have chemistry and there are also hints of them being lovers. In the movie they are high schoolers, somehow making them the same age with Cecile (Cecile de Volanges in the novel.) Also to give that "forbidden" edge, in the movie Sebastian and Katherine are step-siblings, and Chevalier Danceny is turned to an African-American lover. Its surprisingly that the movie stuck closely to the novel. (In the book both Vicomte de Valmont and Marquise de Merteuil help Cecile de Volanges with letters, as well as betraying her, and Marquise de Merteuil also seduces Chevalier Danceny just like in the movie. Madame de Tourvel did stay with Vicomte de Valmont's aunt and he stayed there too.) The only thing that are different are the endings and somehow in the movie the part where Annette (Madame de Tourvel) was warned away by Cecile's mother never made sense to me, while in the novel it did. Setting is slightly different as well, but I find it amazing that the movie has a very modern feel to it. The endings to the movie are different from the books, for they are more upbeat. While in the novel the endings are bitter, but there is one thing that was never updated upon, which I won't mention.

All in all, I would encourage the readers to try both the novel and the movie. If you are into dark endings, I would encourage the novel, but if you are into light endings, try the movie. Hope the reader enjoys reading the novel as well as watching the movie.

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