|By Mira Harber
What is acceptable sexually? How far can a man go before he's gone too
far? Is freedom of speech & the right to act as each man sees fit,
without restraint, the correct way to lead a life?
These are some of the questions that are raised in director Philip Kaufmann's
new film Quills. The film is about the Marquis de Sade, who has
been imprisoned in a lunatic asylum after years of a licentious life and
writings. The actor chosen to play this part is Oscar winner Geoffrey Rush
(winning the Oscar playing the mad pianist in Shine). He is absolutely
superb in his performance. Depending on your point of view he can be seen
either as a depraved sicko or as a very brave man - always writing, creating
his 'art' in the face of all opposition and suffering.
When the film opens we see that the Marquis de Sade has created another
sensation in France with the publication of his latest erotic work. His
writings have been smuggled out of the asylum by a buxom, ready-to-burst,
ripe laundress (Kate Winslet). She is often the first reader/transcriber
of his writings and is fascinated, enticed and repelled by the Marquis
all at the same time. In fact, the authorities are so outraged that they
send a Ken Starr type doctor to 'oversee' the running of the asylum, and
stop the Marquis from committing further outrages.
The doctor is a sadistic brute (brilliantly played by Michael Caine), and
he enters into a battle of wills with the Marquis who taunts him for his
hypocrisy. The doctor is married to a VERY
young girl, and many would
say that his private life was far worse than anything the Marquis de Sade
ever wrote. The young Abbe who runs the asylum (Joaquin Phoenix) believes
that the Marquis may overcome his sex-obsessed feverish writings and ways,
if he writes them away (doesn't act them out, just writes them). After
more of his writings are published, and the evil doctor publicly humiliated,
the Marquis is stripped of everything that he can possibly write with.
First go the pens (Quills) and paper, then wine, furniture, and even his
clothes. He lives to create - to write - and he will find a way, any way,
to do that. This includes writing with his own blood, and later, excrement.
This movie is not for the faint of heart - the images are sometimes shocking,
extremely vivid and disturbing. If you think that censorship, religion
and sexuality are topics of any interest to you, then you must see this
movie. I predict several Oscar nominations for Quills.