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A good starting point might be films based on one of the earliest depiction of a female sociopath in the literature: the early 18th-century French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, a French army general. It is one of the masterpieces of the 18th century. It has inspired a large number of critical and analytic commentaries, plays, and films. The author was talented not only in writing novels. He was an inventor of a modern artillery shell with encasing
He thenceforth spent some time in ballistic studies, which led him to the invention of the modern artillery shell. In 1795 he requested of the Committee of Public Safety reintegration in the army, which was ignored. His attempts to obtain a diplomatic position and to found a bank were also unsuccessful. Eventually, Laclos met the young general and recent First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte, and joined his party. On 16 January 1800 he was reinstated in the Army as Brigadier General in the Army of the Rhine, taking part in the Battle of Biberach.
Made commander-in-chief of Reserve Artillery in Italy (1803), Laclos died shortly afterward in the former convent of St. Francis of Assisi at Taranto, probably of dysentery and malaria. He was buried in the fort still bearing his name (Forte de Laclos) in the Isola di San Paolo near the city, built under his direction
There are several good films based on this novel. The brilliant of the plot is that shows how female sociopath can manipulate man to hurt other women in an intricate web of deceit, and still keep everything under control, like director of the film with actors on the scene, even without internet and instant messaging ;-)
The best is probably a 1988 historical drama film Dangerous Liaisons based upon Christopher Hampton's play Les liaisons dangereuses, which in turn was a theatrical adaptation of the novel. Dangerous Liaisons (1988), was directed by Stephen Frears and starring Glenn Close, John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer and Uma Thurman (based on Hampton's play). This version uses 18th-century costumes and dazzling shots of the Île-de-France region around Paris. It was nominated for multiple Academy Awards including Best Picture ( Dangerous Liaisons - Wikipedia). You can also watch Cruel Intentions (1999) -- a notable attempt to transplant the story into the more modern environment of last century New York upper-class high school teens
It is the story of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont are two psychopathic characters, who are hell bent on dominating other people and use sex as a weapon to humiliate and degrade others, while sadistically enjoying and exchanging letters about their cruel games. It has been claimed to depict the decadence of the French aristocracy shortly before the French Revolution, thereby exposing the perversions of the so-called Ancien Régime. However, it has also been described as one of the first investigation of a female psychopath in literature.
Glenn Close gives a very interesting rendition of female psychopath behaviour. Marquise as played by Glenn Close was a stunning beauty, wicked and calculating, strong-willed and manipulating. Her motto is to "win or die." She does not look too evil, while her actions really are. Close play role with aristocratic coldness, which hides despise of the character of all other people. People around her, played by John Malkovich, Michelle Pfeiffer, Swoozie Kurtz, Uma Thurman, Keenu Reeves, were all unknowingly her puppets. The one closest to knowing the truth (John Malkovich) was also her vehicle to carry out her vicious schemes and falls victim of to her plot.
Malkovich gives a really stellar performance playing a narcissistic male sociopath. He injects in the role a sly, predatory sexuality (which is missing in Glenn Rose rendering of her role) and also projects well the utter despise for the victim (who is only a tool for him, a toy, not a human like it should be for a sociopath). Callous and at the same time witty and courageous and at the same time almost reckless. He also gives some insight into chameleonic nature of psychopath. His arrogant and assured characterization of the Vicomte was very effective. his behaviour during seduction of Cecille has all textbook tricks narcissists are using to overcome the will of their victims, including inducing guilt. Some would call it a rape. Physically he may not be too attractive for a Casanova style seducer, but his rendering of psychopathic side of the character is extremely talented and pretty convicing.
The movies is based on the classic french novel Les Liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons)
is a French
epistolary novel by
Pierre Choderlos de
Laclos, first published in four volumes by Durand Neveu from
1782. This work by
Laclos is probably
the most skillfully crafted
The protagonists, Valmont and Madame de Merteuil, are libertines by conviction. The novel shows the working-out of two projects:
It is often claimed to be the source of the saying "Revenge is a dish best served cold", a paraphrased translation of "La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid" (more literally, "Revenge is a dish that is eaten cold"). However the expression does not actually occur in the original novel.
The Vicomte de Valmont is determined to seduce the virtuous (and married) Madame de Tourvel, who is living with Valmont's aunt while Monsieur de Tourvel is away for a court case. At the same time, the Marquise de Merteuil is determined to corrupt the young Cécile de Volanges, whose mother has only recently brought her out of a convent to be married to a former lover of Merteuil.
Cécile falls in love with the Chevalier Danceny (her music tutor) and Merteuil and Valmont pretend to want to help the secret lovers in order to gain their trust, so that they can use them later in their own schemes.
Merteuil suggests that the Vicomte seduce Cécile in order to exact her revenge on Cécile's future husband. Valmont refuses, finding the task too easy, and preferring to devote himself to seducing Madame de Tourvel. Merteuil promises Valmont that if he seduces Madame de Tourvel and provides her with written proof, she will spend the night with him. He expects rapid success, but does not find it as easy as his many other conquests. During the course of his pursuit, he discovers that Cécile's mother has written to Madame de Tourvel about his bad reputation. He avenges himself in seducing Cécile as Merteuil had suggested. In the meantime, Merteuil takes Danceny as a lover.
By the time Valmont has succeeded in seducing Madame de Tourvel, it is suggested that he might have fallen in love with her. Jealous, Merteuil tricks him into deserting Madame de Tourvel — and reneges on her promise of spending the night with him.
In response Valmont reveals that he prompted Danceny to reunite with Cécile, thus abandoning Merteuil.
Merteuil declares war on Valmont, as such she reveals to Danceny that Valmont seduced Cécile. Danceny and Valmont duel. Valmont is fatally wounded, but before he dies he is reconciled with Danceny, giving him the letters proving Merteuil's own involvement.
Two of these letters are sufficient to ruin her health and her reputation, and she flees the country. Furthermore, her face is left permanently scarred by illness, and so she loses her greatest asset: her beauty. But the innocent still suffer: hearing of Valmont's death, Madame de Tourvel succumbs to a fever, while Cécile returns to the convent.
Although Valmont and Merteuil were once lovers, they are now rivals in libertinage, and their latent hostility eventually becomes overt. Fatally wounded in a duel with Danceny (who is in love with Cécile), Valmont gives him Merteuil's letters.
When these are circulated in Paris, her reputation is ruined; in addition she contracts smallpox, which mars her beauty; and she loses an important lawsuit. It therefore appears that the wicked characters have been duly punished.
But the victims suffer too: Tourvel dies, heart-broken, and Cécile decides to become a nun. Moreover, the quantity and quality of the protagonists' letters, which display their superior intelligence and strength of will, mean that the reader may well feel some admiration for Valmont and Merteuil.
The two conflicting prefaces to the novel (both by Laclos) do little to clarify its moral ambiguity.
Initially a succès de scandale, the work was frequently reprinted up to about 1800. For much of the 19th c., however, it was dismissed as immoral and indeed officially banned. Modern critics take a less censorious view of Laclos's ethical position.
Two other aspects of the book have provoked discussion. It had long been argued that Laclos's exposé of corrupt aristocratic society helped to bring about the Revolution. This view is now generally discredited. More recently, critics have suggested that Merteuil is a feminist avant la lettre.
However, while rejecting male domination, she shows little sympathy for other women; her ‘feminism’ is therefore debatable.
Les Liaisons dangereuses is one of first novels depicting a female sociopath. While it is celebrated for its exploration of seduction, revenge, and human malice, presented in the form of fictional letters collected and published by a fictional author, the depiction of sociopathic, predatory behaviour is probably is the most lasting value of this classic. The real intentions of the author remain unknown.
It has been suggested that Laclos's intention was the same as that of his fictional author in the novel and to write a morality tale about the corrupt, squalid nobility of the Ancien Régime. However, this theory has been questioned on several grounds. In the first place, Laclos enjoyed the patronage of France's most senior aristocrat - the duc d'Orléans. Secondly, all the characters in the story are aristocrats, including the virtuous heroines - Madame de Tourvel and Madame du Rosemonde. Finally, many ultra-royalist and conservative figures enjoyed the book, including Queen Marie-Antoinette, which suggests that - despite its scandalous reputation - it was not viewed as a political work until the events of the French Revolution years later made it appear as such, with the benefit of hindsight.
Wayland Young notes that most critics have viewed the work as
... a sort of celebration, or at least a neutral statement, of libertinism... pernicious and damnable... Almost everyone who has written about it has noted how perfunctory are the wages of sin..."
He argues, however, that
... the mere analysis of libertinism… carried out by a novelist with such a prodigious command of his medium... was enough to condemn it and play a large part in its destruction. 
The novel has been made into a play by Christopher Hampton which opened on London's West End and later crossed over to Broadway with Alan Rickman originating the role of the Vicomte de Valmont, Lindsay Duncan as Marquise de Merteuil, and Juliet Stevenson as Tourvel. It has also been adapted into various other media, under many different names.
Classic Movie watcher, on December 3, 2005
Wonderful performance of Glenn Close
When I saw this movie on TV, the opening scene was actually the last scene of the DVD version. Who was the lady (Glenn Close) in the VIP box and what has she done to provoke such a unified response from the audience of the theatre? What followed was the retelling of her story and her infamous endeavours.
Marquise (Glenn CLose) was a stunning beauty, wicked and calculating, strong-willed and manipulating. What she called as a power of struggle between the sexes boiled down to a war for her to win all at all costs. She would rather declare victory over other women who might threaten her (or rather her vanity). People around her, played by John Malkovich,Michelle Pfeiffer, Swoozie Kurtz, Uma Thurman, Keenu Reeves, were all unknowingly her puppets. The one closest to knowing the truth (John Malkovich) was also her vehicle to carry out her vicious schemes and succumbed to her plot.
This was a tragic story because it was a lose-lose-lose situation; everyone (including Marquise) was a victum in the end. True love was not rewarded. Neither vanity and happiness went to any of them. The movie offers fine performance of the star-studded cast and detailed costumes and sets. One of a kind.
D. Litton on December 17, 2001
A ravishing, devilish good time!
There's a certain degree of sinful pleasure hidden beneath the depravity of "Dangerous Liaisons," a film that is perversely elegant in its execution and daringly naughty in regard to its story. Based on the novel by Choderlos de Laclos, the script by Christopher Hampton explores the cause and effect nature of love, betrayal, and sinful intentions in both humorous and serious lights. While the material could be easily morose and unaffecting, director Stephen Frears spices up his canvas with a beautiful cast and a well-constructed production design.
At the center of the story are two people who feed on the misery they cause others as a way to keep their urges for one another suppressed.
Glenn Close is the seductively evil Marquise de Merteuil, a self-proclaimed "virtuoso of deceit" who believes it her duty to dominate the opposite sex, and avenge her own. Her latest undertaking involves the daughter of her naive friend Madame de Volanges (Swoozie Kurtz), for whom her former lover left her. In hopes of ruining daughter Cecile's (Uma Thurman) reputation, she calls upon beloved friend and partner in evil, Vicomte de Valmont, played by John Malkovich. Valmont, like Merteuil, prides himself on his accomplishments, and prizes the feeling of success that comes with the devastation he causes to women.
But he has different plans in mind, involving the seduction and ruin of one Madame de Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer), whose ideals and virtues are the exact opposite of these two wicked souls. His plan is concocted from the most cruel of intentions: to make her want him so badly that she does not relinquish her beliefs, but instead is crushed by them once she gives in to his advances.
Imagine his surprise when he finds that his task will not be as easy as he had at first hoped
Gatorgirlon December 2, 2015
A wicked movie
What a great movie. This movie shows what happens when boredom sets in for the privileged in old world France. How two diabolical people who are made for each get bored and decide to manipulate the lives of people who are in their circle of friends just for the fun of it. But things as usual do not go as planned. The count (John Malkovich) falls in live with his prey (Michelle Pfeiffer) unexpectedly and this infuriates his ally in crime (Glenn Close).
o she sets out to destroy him. Her line of "war" is chilling. But he outwits her in the end and she ends up exposed and humiliated. Keanu Reeves and Una Thurman give great performances as young lovers whom John and Glenn involve in their wicked scheme just for the fun of it. I can see why it was an Oscar-winner. I would recommend this movie highly.
The script and dialogue are wonderful and the actors play it to the hilt. Enjoy it over and over. Great period movie with beautiful scenes and costumes. 12-2-2015
Petroson May 14, 2015
Cuts like a knife!
Dangerous Liaisons has a very particular rhythm which moves like a mathematical calculation. Frears has chosen fantastic music to accompany the style and enhance this aspect of the film. Even the expressions from the actors which are often caught in their playful demeanour are carefully timed in the length of the shot and in the musical cue when needed. There is also a humour constant throughout the film which dramatically magnifies the sting at the end of the story.
The script may fraternize with the amoral characters in their sadistic plotting and appalling behaviour but it has a lot to say about the values and weaknesses of all the characters, no matter with whom you sympathize. This is a very multi-layered story structure which is lost on most people because they lack experience and perception on the human condition.
I for example only sympathize with Glenn Close's character, who is a modern woman trying to keep her power and individuality in a man's world. This unfair balance in her world is both supported by ignorant men and equally weak, ignorant women. The last scene of Glenn Close is played beautifully by this gifted actress and gets my compassionate vote. I have understood her cruelty throughout the movie and have forgiven her but society is hissing and the end seems near.
I find the style of the film so unique and on its own terms that there really is nothing I can think of to compare in cinema. Dangerous Liaisons is extremely enjoyable and very entertaining but the serious tone and comment underlining the film makes it also a rather masterful experience, which many audiences miss when viewing this masterpiece.
Renee L Williamson April 23, 2014
One of my favorite movies of all time
I have watched this movie many many times. It's still one of my favorites. Glenn Close does a fantastic job as the conniving sinister power hungry bad lady. I just love the costumes and the time period this movie was cast. John Malkovic actually looks kind of cute here where I would never say that about him in any other movie. He's a terrific versatile actor and plays this part to perfection. There are many other famous actors you will recognize when they were just teenagers but have long since went on to play other starring roles.
Bynancyon March 19, 2014
While the theme revolves around power and possession, sex being the tool to both, the narrative is classic. In this particular version, the cast is superb - especially Glenn Close and John Malkovich. A movie not easily forgotten; a premise, universal. Five stars from me - I'd watch it again tomorrow.
Jimon March 10, 2014
the art of manipulation and the application of power
All about the power, winning and rising above it all at the end. Super movie. Wish it was free on prime.
The Inquisitoron February 24, 2013
Is it possible to manipulate the world without manipulating yourself in the process? Dangerous Liaisons is an 80s gem. Forgotten by many, remembered by fans of classical debauchery, Glenn Close, Michelle Pfeiffer, and the star of the show: John Malkovich. Dangerous Liaisons came out in 1988 and was directed by Stephen Frears.
This film could pair well on a double feature bill with Wall Street. These films overflow with dishonesty, abuse of privilege, and are essentially allegories about the pitfalls of greed.
Dangerous Liaisons is really historic artistic escapism. The story is set in France around 1760. The look, feel, costumes, and place designs all set you directly into the action. John Malkovich plays the villain role of Vicomte de Valmont to perfection.
He is basically a rich powerful man of privilege that uses his influence to manipulate women. Vicomte de Valmont insatiably starts an an affair with every woman within arms reach. Once his conquest quota has met capacity he falls desperately in love. He becomes a spider trapped in his own web and escape is futile. Lust. Seduction. Revenge. Take your pick. Dangerous Liaisons is the ultimate 18th century soapopera.
This film was a success and remains a worthwhile venture down immorality lane. Dangerous Liaisons was nominated for seven Academy Awards. It won awards for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Art Direction. If there was an award category for decadence, Dangerous Liaisons would have "possessed" the competition.
Mark A. Knighton January 24, 2013BSon October 2, 2012
A Period Piece about Our Period
Two wealthy, idle aristrocrats plot to seduce and destroy innocent people for amusement and revenge in this brilliant 1988 movie. The production is sumptious. The acting is compelling, and the story is tight and moves with the speed of a snake strike. The wealthy degenerates are so charming in their dialogue and glamorous in their finery that the viewer at first almost sides with them in enjoying their mischief. However, creator Pierre Choderlos De Laclos was a moralist and critic of the immorality of his time.
France in the 18th Century was becoming more politically unstable because of the income desparity between the classes, and the insensitivity of the ruling royalty. The rich felt themselves superior to everyone else. The high born characters in De Laclo's tale are all upper class, but either ruthless and selfish or naive,innocent or hypocritical victims. Hence, the French Revolution in 1889, when Royalty literally lost it's head.
There are parallels to the go go 1980s when military spending was increased, the rich were favored in government as never before, while aid to the poor was decreased, homelessness increased and the income gap between the classes was widened as never before. No one actually said, "Let them eat cake" either in the 1700s (Marie Antoinette was framed) or in the 1980s, but the ruling policies certainly gave this attitude. One can almost picture Valmont or Merteuil stating the 47% remark that Mitt Romney so infamously espoused in that little youtube clip during the 2012 election campaign.
To watch Dangerous Liaisons in the 2010s is to experience what our current government debate is: favoring the highest 1 percent over the majority of lower income wage earners and those unable to find jobs, or disabled. In the film the 1% wins in that Valmont and Merteuil achieve their goal, but at a terrible price to their own society.
The story was filmed once before and several times after scriptwriter Christopher Hampton/ director Stephen Freers' version, but only the South Korean 2003 Untold Scandal by E-J Young rivals 1988's Dangerous Liaisons in style and substance.A Masterpiece Of Scandelous Behaviour This is one of 3 movies during the 80s that I saw the play they were based upon. The others being Amadeus: Director's Cut [Blu-ray] and Little Shop of Horrors: Director's Cut [Blu-ray]. They were all great movies and great plays. Dangerous Liaisons stands out for several reasons. The subject matter was ingenious and its much like the movie Cruel Intentions [Blu-ray], set in the age of French 18th century aristocracy. Its a movie that is perfectly cast and I think the first that I saw Thurman and Malkovich along with a very young Keanu Reeves. The movie going public still had Amadeus on their minds, one of the greatest period pieces ever made, and Dangerous Liaisons with its more scandalous storyline, beautiful costumes, sets and music was an instant hit.
I don't think Malkovich has ever been better. Glenn Close is perfect. Young Uma Thurman and Keanu Reeves fit their roles of naive pawns perfectly. Come to think of it, this must be like those romance novels women are addicted to, lol. Truly decadent, yet a true delight.
This Blu-ray transfer is beautiful. Lots of detail, wonderful lighting and no glaring issues. This was shot in the late 80s, on film, with natural lighting yet its not a dark film like The Last of the Mohicans: Director's Definitive Cut [Blu-ray] and Warner Brothers thankfully didn't use noise reduction to get rid of the film grain. The audio is very good too. Dialog is clear and the music comes through wonderfully. Extras include a never heard before commentary and a trailer.
A. Simonon September 3, 2011
masterful rendition of the original work
Glenn Close and John Malkovich are two sides of the same coin in this feature. They are superb at portraying predators: they are elegant, malicious, deceitful and manipulative. Their goals are sexual conquests and/or ruining reputations and marriages. Uma Thurman, on the other hand, portrays an innocent girl who becomes their catspaw. Not only the acting but the directing, the cinematography and the screenplay are all perfection.
The plot is as follows: Close asks Malkovich to seduce Thurman prior to her marriage to Close's ex-lover, who insists on marrying a virgin. Malkovich declines as it being too easy and, besides, his sights are on Michelle Pfeiffer, who is famous for being a virtuous, married woman. Thurman's mother, however, warns Pfeiffer not to believe a word that comes out of silver tongued Malkovich, that he is really a scumbag.
Malkovich redoubles his efforts, but as revenge will also go ahead and seduce Thurman. Unintentionally, however, Malkovich begins to fall in love with Pfeiffer and he relates his feelings to Close (he is even beginning to develop a conscience!), totally oblivious to the fact that she is now becoming jealous and angry. So now, Close begins to manipulate and scheme against her former ally. I will not say any more in order not to spoil the movie.
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