Movie Review 2007 #43: Quills

Quills is a movie about many things: Sex, writing, dark desires, madness, creativity, sex… in 19th century France.
It has an Academy Award nominated Geoffrey Rush as the Marquis de Sade, Kate Winslet, Michael Caine and Joaquin Phoenix.


Another of my favorite movies, because of, not even despite, its tremor of darkness. Quills tells the story of the Marquis De Sade within the sanitarium at Chareton, and those around him–the Abbe (Phoenix) who gently tries to “cure” the Count of his dark thoughts, the winsome maiden servant (Winslet) drawn like a moth to Rush’s flame, and the Doctor (Caine) who is brought in when the Abbe’s methods prove insufficient and sterner methods must be taken. But the use of those causes a chain reaction of events that turn very grim indeed.
Its lighthearted in parts, and wickedly funny, perhaps surprising given the source material, but there is also very dark material here–whippings, torture, imprisonment, rape, and death. The movie is relatively uncompromising in its theme that creativity must not be stifled, or else serious consequences will result. Its a provocative movie in that way, and its themes and its position is one that many people in this country would seriously disagree with.
The dialogue is top notch, the acting is first rate, and the vision of a 19th century sanitarium is a complete and holistic one (it got an Oscar nomination for Art Direction), with great direction, too.
I think it ranks with the movies that were nominated for Best Picture that year (Gladiator, Erin Brockovich, Chocolat, Crouching Tiger, and Traffic). It never had a real chance of getting a nomination itself, but I think that it should have, in an ideal world.
Not for everyone, or the squeamish, but I really liked it. I need to screencap Rush writing to use as an icon at some point.