Comparison and Differences of Dangerous Liaisons Novel and Film

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The film Dangerous Liaison, directed by Stephen Frears remains just about faithful to the epistolary novel, Dangerous Liaisons, by Choderlos de Laclos. Stephen Frears does “betray” the novel towards the end of the film but, it makes the ending that much more better and enticing. The film represents what the epistolary novel only hints at us readers. The novel is composed of letters where we only get a sense of the characters thoughts and emotions. The film tries to put those words into action but only showing one version of each scene.

It is different in which the writer of the novel is using words while the film maker is using pictures to describe what’s happening. With this obstacle alone, I think the film maker did a great job creating the film. The movie and film have the same story line in which two immoral aristocrats create disorder on the innocent people around them, corrupting everything and everyone in their paths. One being Madame de Merteuil who wants to get revenge on a former lover by arranging the seduction of his bride to be, Cecile Volanges.

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The other immoral aristocrat is Valmont, he only wants the pleasure of knowing that he can make a moral woman break her marital vows. They play a game of seduction that comes with lots of sex and violence, the game leads to Valmont physical death and Merteuil’s reputations death, in the film, and her getting ill in the novel. In the novel not one of the characters is described enough to allow us, as readers, to create a portrait in our minds based on the text. However, in the film it leaves nothing to our imagination, not the faces, clothing or even the women’s naked bodies.

Laclos spends little to no time in the novel describing clothes and hairdos which we associate with a woman’s attractiveness and look. When first seeing the film I was surprised with all the makeup the woman wore and their extraordinary clothing. The other thing I found fascinating was that the men would wear wigs, and they were far from simple. It goes to show us that back in the late 1700’s it was all about looks and style. The biggest betrayal the film makes to the novel is the ending. The film nds when Merteuil goes to the opera to find out she is hated by everyone there, she goes back to her room and it ends with her removing her makeup, her destiny is left unknown. In the book, she gets a very painful case of small pox and loses sight in one of her eyes after her letters to Valmont have been published. When Merteuil removes her makeup at the end of the film, she is wiping away the surface that made her attractive, her desirability is being wiped away. Her power has been based on her appearance and her destruction of her face symbolizes her destruction of herself.

Merteuil no longer is the strong feminist she use to be, she is now a weak woman just like Tourvel. I think the director made a good choice in changing the ending of the film. I was shocked and somewhat happy to see Merteuil finally get what she deserved. The jaw dropper for me was when she fell while leaving the opera it symbolized her reputation falling too. Everyone use to look up to Merteuil and she would control them like puppets and now the roles have been turned. For me the ending of the movie was a lot more satisfying and jaw dropping. Merteuil tried everything in her power to win the game of revenge and it back fired on her.

Vicomte de Valmont’s character in the novel and film are very faithful to each other. Valmont, who is a womanizer, succeeds in seducing Cecile Volanges and then falls in love with the Presidente de Tourvel. Besides being Merteuil’s good friend and partner in crime, Valmont was once Merteuil’s lover. While playing in the game of seduction he gets into a battle with Chevalier Danceny, sadly Valmont loses the battle and dies. In this scene of the film, Valmont is laying on the ground dying and confess his love for Tourvel to Danceny which doesn’t happen in the novel.

Valmont says to Danceny, at least you had a good cause, I don’t believe that’s something that could be sad about me. Watching this scene made me feel pity for Valmont. He fell in love with Tourvel but Merteuil told him to break it off. Seeing Tourvel dying in her bed was very sad to watch and made me start to hate Merteuil, she was a cruel person with mean intentions and it was her time to feel all the pain she put on these people. The film, Dangerous Liaisons, directed by Stephen Frears was almost similar to the epistolary novel, Dangerous Liaisons, written by Choderlos de Laclos.

I enjoyed seeing how Stephen Frears created a film based on a book composed of letters. I think he did a great job and enjoyed the movie more than the book. I think Frears made a good choice changing the ending of the film, the exaggerated social fall of the once “libertine” Marquise de Merteuil was so great and brilliantly put together. There other changes in the film weren’t as major as the ending but, they all pieced together to create a great film with such a rollercoaster of emotions along the way as a viewer.

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Comparison and Differences of Dangerous Liaisons Novel and Film. (2017, Feb 10). Retrieved from

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