Wednesday, 28 July 2010


Filmed for Swedish TV, Ingmar Bergman’s The Marquise de Sade, inspired by Yukio Mishima’s play Madame de Sade, places six women in the same room, all of whom had some form of connection with the Marquis de Sade. Despite the disapproval of her mother and sister, Renée de Sade often finds herself dreaming about her husband in an unusually favourable light, showing that her devotion has in some way blinkered her from his lasciviousness. La Comtesse de Saint-Ford, dressed in an androgynous yellow suit and jodhpurs, grills de Sade’s wife about their sexual activity with a sinister fascination.

The idea of evoking male dominance in sexuality through the accounts of women brings to mind de Sade’s The 120 Days of Sodom, which Pier Paolo Pasolini famously adapted in the seventies as Salò. Like Pasolini’s film, The Marquise de Sade is the result of countless revisions, keeping the Japanese music of Mishima’s play but reinventing the cast as Swedish noblewomen. In composing his play for television, Bergman balances theatre with cinema, taking advantage of close-ups to generate a sense of intimacy where necessary. There is a peculiar sensuality in the women’s dialogues which is echoed in the vibrant colour palette, and Dangerous Liaisons springs to mind more than once. De Sade’s absence is notable, but his hold over people is palpable as each woman deals with her individual morality. With superb performances by a familiar cast, The Marquise de Sade is further evidence that Bergman was a true master of dramaturgy.

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