Thursday, 1 December 2011

Practiced Detachment

(*) 'I wanted you before we'd ever met, my self esteem demanded it. 
Then when you began to pursue me,  I wanted you so badly. 
It's the only time I've ever been controlled by my desire;
 single combat.' 

Dangerous Liaisons is a 1988 drama film starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, Keanu Reeves and Uma Thurman. I saw it for the first time last week and was taken aback by the power of the story, the lust & desire and the hunger for others misery. The film opens with the morning ritual of waking up the Marquise de Merteuil (Glenn Close) and her partner the Vicomte de Valmont (John Malkovich) set in France around 1760. She has been forced to comply with the social rules of her gender at the time. And with the assistance of the finest teachers and scholars she tries to dominate the male species and avenge her own. This creates a complicated story where the viewer becomes an accomplice and is forced to sympathize for a wicked, sophisticated mind.

The still with Glen Close (*) comes from a scene when the game of conquest is underway and the Marquise sits down with her partner when he asks her to explain her skills. She sips her tea. Contemplating his reply and starts: 'When I came out into society I was 15. I already knew that the role I was condemned to, namely to keep quiet and do what I was told, gave me the perfect opportunity to listen and observe.' she tilts her head and continues: 'Not to what people told me, which naturally was of no interest, but to whatever it was they were trying to hide.' She looks ahead of her in the distance and says: 'I practiced detachment. I learned how to look cheerful while under the table I stuck a fork into the back of my hand. I became a virtuoso of deceit. It wasn't pleasure I was afer, it was knowledge. I consulted the strictest moralists to learn how to appear, philosophers to find out what to think, and novelists to see what I could get away with, and in the end, I distilled everything to one wonderfully simple principle.' Her eyes blink and without fear or hesitation she looks him in the eye and continues: 'to win or die'

And after the Vicomte asks her about his role in this game of deceit she utters the words: ' I wanted you before we'd ever met....' (*) Adding to her earlier confession a sense of honesty and vulnerability. This evaporates quickly when a servant enters and she instantly is detached from all that was discussed. 

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