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Quills (2000)

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In a Napoleonic era insane asylum, an inmate, the irrepressible Marquis De Sade, fights a battle of wills against a tyrannically prudish doctor.

Director:

Philip Kaufman

Writers:

Doug Wright (play), Doug Wright (screenplay)
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Popularity
3,997 ( 116)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 18 wins & 41 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Geoffrey Rush ... The Marquis de Sade
Kate Winslet ... Madeleine
Joaquin Phoenix ... Coulmier
Michael Caine ... Royer-Collard
Billie Whitelaw ... Madame LeClerc
Patrick Malahide ... Delbené
Amelia Warner ... Simone
Jane Menelaus Jane Menelaus ... Renee Pelagie
Stephen Moyer ... Prouix
Tony Pritchard Tony Pritchard ... Valcour
Michael Jenn ... Cleante
Danny Babington ... Pitou
George Antoni George Antoni ... Dauphin (as George Yiasoumi)
Stephen Marcus ... Bouchon
Elizabeth Berrington ... Charlotte
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Storyline

The infamous writer, the Marquis de Sade of eighteenth century France, is imprisoned at Charenton Insane Asylum for unmentionable activities. He manages to befriend the young Abbé de Coulmier, who runs the asylum, along with a beautiful laundress named Madeline. Things go terribly wrong when the Abbe finds out that the Marquis' books are being secretly published. Emperor Napoleon contemplates sending Dr. Royer-Collard to oversee the asylum, a man famed for his torturous punishments. It could mean the end of Charenton and possibly the Marquis. Written by Emily H and Janette W

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

There are no bad words... only bad deeds. See more »

Genres:

Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Official Sites:

Fox Searchlight

Country:

UK | Germany | USA

Language:

English | Latin

Release Date:

25 December 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Letras prohibidas, la leyenda del Marqués de Sade See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$13,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$249,383, 26 November 2000, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$7,060,876, 29 April 2001

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$17,989,227, 31 December 2000
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The tune that the Marquis de Sade keeps humming throughout this movie is the French children's song "Au Clair de la Lune" by Jean-Baptiste Lully, the second line of which becomes increasingly relevant, roughly translated, it is "lend me your quill so I can write a word." See more »

Goofs

When Madeleine is putting on her dress after getting her wounds clean, she slips her arm into the sleeve twice. See more »

Quotes

Coulmier: Your terrible secret revealed, you're a man after all.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Bad Girls: Episode #6.4 (2004) See more »

Soundtracks

Au clair de la lune
Written by Jean-Baptiste Lully
See more »

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User Reviews

 
Quills inspires a seemingly improper sense of affinity and a terrifying new definition of sin.
28 May 2005 | by jltredinnickSee all my reviews

Quills is a delightfully unsettling account of the demise of the Marquis de Sade and those he brings down with him. The film presents viewers with all the evidence they need to identify the fallacies of society's separation of "good" from "evil" and "moralists" from "sinners." It subtly asserts that the values traditionally used to pass judgment are compromised by convention and religion, and that there is moral danger in accepting these values without question.

During the film, one form of sin is only replaced by another, which defeats its resistors and beguiles the rest by hiding behind a pretentious shroud of religion and convention.

Viewers are horrified to discover that they can actually identify with the marquis, whose name inspired the word "sadist" to describe those who derive sexual pleasure from violence. Most viewers' senses of morality are sullied by the realization that they are hanging on every twist of the plot, desperate to know what will next beset these wretched characters.

Based on historical fact, Quills catches up with the Marquis (Geoffrey Rush) during the twilight of his life, when he has already been sentenced to life imprisonment in the Charenton Asylum. No longer able to pursue the perverse sexual escapades that had landed him in the madhouse after decades of unspeakable offenses, he now purges his demons by writing. At the urging of the saintly, ever-tolerant and even-tempered Abbe Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), the marquis describes his imagination's disturbing scenes on paper.

Trouble arises when one of his books, smuggled to a publisher by a sympathetic admirer - innocent laundry maid Madeleine (Kate Winslet) - catch the disapproving eye of Emperor Napoleon.

There is no escape from sin when the man sent to purify the Charenton, Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine), only seeks to replace it with intolerance and unimaginable cruelty.

True to the spirit of the film, the sets are imbued befittingly with gloom and grime, and the inhabitants of the Charenton are realistically ragged.

Rush and Winslet's performances as the marquis and Madeleine are stunning. The film's delicious impropriety is heightened by their chemistry, which is so potent as to be communicable to viewers.

The super-intelligent plot is unexpectedly circular, leaving viewers feeling as though they may well be next in line for the madness bred at the Charenton. Their fears are seemingly verified by he change they know the film has already inspired in them.

Far from resolutive, the only solace the ending holds for viewers is a sense of, "Aha, now I know," and a new way to evaluate the good in evil in themselves and others.


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