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As she sinks into her chair, her face registers the total collapse of her facade. Valmont has his own piercing insight, when he acknowledges that he has fallen in love with Madame de Tourvel. Not that animal appetites are quite the thing for this play. Schreiber is a strong actor and a studly kind of male, and despite a constricting costume and skull-pinching wig, he exudes a modern manliness that hardly suits the effete Valmont.

Extreme seduction: Civic stages ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’ | The Spokesman-Review

Scene changes are especially eye-catching, with gorgeously costumed extras gliding on and off, humming to themselves. And as visual symbols go, nothing could be more definitive than the lights flickering and burning out in the chandeliers that illuminated this play. Opened Oct. Reviewed Oct. Creative : Directed by Josie Rourke. He was Here, I thought, was something comparable in emotional complexity to Othello.

On returning home I began to read Laclos's epistolary novel and found myself moved and enthralled all over again. Hampton would soon take his play to Broadway, with Rickman once more in the role of Valmont, and write the screen play for Stephen Frears' remarkable Hollywood adaptation, Dangerous Liaisons , in which John Malkovich was cast as Valmont, with Glenn Close as Merteuil, his fellow aristocratic co-conspirator. Later, Hampton's film version would itself be reinterpreted, the story updated to contemporary Manhattan by Roger Kumble, the writer-director of the stylish yet essentially vacuous Cruel Intentions , starring Ryan Phillippe and Sarah Michelle Gellar as affluent high-school wasters.

Les Liaisons Dangereuses

There are admirers of Laclos, such as the novelist Michael Dibdin, who believe that any dramatic rendering of this novel is necessarily a travesty because, as Dibdin says, his "characters exist not as actors but writers". Theatre, he continues, "presents us with people in action, speaking and moving and doing, while in Laclos's novel we must follow events indirectly, at second-hand, mediated by a series of more-or-less unreliable narrators in the form of letters designed to impress, persuade, reveal and conceal - in a word, to control".

Dibdin is wrong, I think, to object to the film and stage adaptations of the novel, not least because the original is so long and digressive that its dramatic central story - the seduction, fall and death of Tourvel - is too often lost beneath layers of obfuscation and repetition.


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There is, too, something unsatisfactorily static about the form of the epistolary novel; it may offer the opportunity to write from multiple points of view - but what about those formal expressions of farewell? What should be remembered as well is that Laclos's characters, especially Merteuil, may be writers but they are also actors in their own drama: they inhabit roles, they are drawn to game-playing and disguise, and their most affecting letters are more like dramatic monologues, anguished expressions of interiority.

Four 'Liaisons,' But Only One Is Dangereuse

Hampton's achievement was to excavate the bones of a wonderfully dramatic story from the larger body of the text; we watch, fascinated, as Valmont understands too late the truth of his love for Tourvel. In a moment of blinding self-revelation, he realises that, like Tolstoy's Ivan Ilyich, his whole life has been wrong, a lie. And yet this most selfish of characters dies in complete self-forgetfulness: he can think, at the end, only of the plight of Tourvel and what he has done to her.

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Valmont, Rickman has said, "was a cruel part to play for a long time, and I don't think it was entirely healthy for me. It would take a lot to get me to do that again. Valmont is so self-destructive, yet he doesn't know it, so you have to play a lie all the time.

I wasn't very pleasant to live with during that period. As Frears was completing work on Dangerous Liaisons, so the Czech director Milos Forman was also finishing off his own film adaptation. Name required.


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Les Liaisons Dangereuses

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