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July 13, 1808 at the Charenton Insane Asylum just outside Paris. The inmates of the asylum are mounting their latest theatrical production, written and produced by who is probably the most famous inmate of the facility, the Marquis de Sade. The asylum's director, M. Coulmier, a supporter of the current French regime led by Napoleon, encourages this artistic expression as therapy for the inmates, while providing the audience - the aristocracy - a sense that they are being progressive in inmate treatments. Coulmier as the master of ceremonies, his wife and daughter in special places of honor, and the cast, all of whom are performing the play in the asylum's bath house, are separated from the audience by prison bars. The play is a retelling of a period in the French Revolution culminating with the assassination exactly fifteen years earlier of revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat by peasant girl, Charlotte Corday. The play is to answer whether Marat was a friend or foe to the people of France. ... Written by
Several lines in de Sade's play give the impression that Charlotte Corday was a royalist (as she was portrayed, for instance, in the British press at the time of her trial). In fact she belonged to a revolutionary sect, the Girondins, more moderate than Marat's. See more »
Now, your enemies fall / We're beheading them all / Duperret and Corday executed in the same old way.
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The opening credits - the play's title, stage credits and the actors appearing in the film - pop on the screen, one word at a time, until it is filled. The closing credits - the film's production staff - start off with a full screen of words; they then pop off the screen, one word at a time, until it is completely empty...just as it was when the film began. See more »
The deepest questions of good and evil and free will
I just watched the MGM DVD, which is a fine letterboxed transfer. (I also saw the movie a few years after it was released.)
Marat/Sade is an amazingly original and stunningly powerful philosophical and psychological descent into one of the most complex periods of recorded history, the French Revolution, the Terror that ensued, and the rise of Napoleon and his empire. The multi-layered ideas come thick and fast; I had to watch the movie over two nights because there's so much to think about, and some of the words and images are so overwhelming.
Of the Royal Shakespeare Company actors in the film (little known at the time), Glenda Jackson had the most notable subsequent career, but Ian Richardson (Marat) has also done remarkable things (and he's so young here, you may not recognize him).
This is not a movie for casual entertainment, but if you care about history and the deepest questions of good and evil and free will, you'll find much of value here.
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