Pierre Choderlos de Laclos published Les Liaisons Dangereuses in 1782. It was a scandal. Although fictional, the story of the narcissistic and amoral couple’s manipulations, seducing, blackmailing and destroying people’s lives just for pleasure continues to impact the world even 239 years later.
I read the book which is made as if it were a compilation of letters exchanged between lovers and victims. It is timeless because it deals with feelings and yearnings of the human soul.
Starz announced that it is already filming a series inspired by the book to release in 2022, telling how Valmont and Merteiul met. Interesting!
Although the original book was a classic in France, it took cinema around 177 years to make its first adaptation, with Roger Vadim‘s 1959 film starring Jeanne Moreau as the dreaded Merteiul. The most popular version, however, is Christopher Hampton‘s adaptation of the play of the same name from the late 1980s in London. A fever of box office and awards, it was assembled in London and New York with the same cast, making Alan Rickman a star.
Dangerous Liaisons, the original, had Alan Rickman as Valmont, Lindsay Duncan as Merteiul, and Juliet Stevenson as Madame de Tourvel. The play is from 1987 and was immediately taken to the cinema, with the film being one of the strong Oscar nominees in 1988. The cast was marked by American stars, with Glenn Close in one of his most remarkable (and wronged) performances, John Malkovich as Valmont and Michelle Pfeiffer as Tourvel. Stephen Frears‘ direction was praised, but originally, Milos Forman was supposed to have made the film. He differed on the story’s focus and made his version, Valmont, with Colin Firth, Annette Bening and Meg Tilly, without achieving the success of the 1988 film.
In the 1990s, there was a new production, with a young and modern cast, Cruel Intentions, with Ryan Philippe, Reese Witherspoon, and Sarah Michelle Gellar, a film that also became a classic and a reference. Well then, Starz’s announcement that it’s working on a new version of the story generated anticipation.
The series promises to “reimagine” the original version of the book, including a prequel in which we will see how Merteiul and Valmont met. In the play and in the book, the two already talk about this stage of history in the past, with very different perspectives on the affair that brought them together. In fact, it is in fact the most important element of the story because it is this hurt that drives the marquise in her revenge and brings the tragic element of the conclusion.
Alice Englert and Nicholas Denton will bring the anti-heroes of the story to life. The cast includes Lesley Manville, Carice van Houten, Paloma Faith, Michael McElhatton, Kosar Ali, Nathanael Saleh, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Hilton Pelser, Mia Threapleton, Colett Dalal Tchantcho, Lucy Cohu, Fisayo Akinade, Maria Friedman and Clare Higgins.
A positive point is that the series has a woman behind the script and direction. Harriet Warner of Call the Midwife, The Alienist and Mistresses will serve as showrunner. It is important because Marquise Merteiul is a modern woman and aware of her role in a sexist society. She uses her weapons to win and climb, and depending on the view, can easily be stereotyped and judged. I am excited!