- 2 hr 4 min
The movie Quills offers a highly fictionalized account of the life and death of the Marquis de Sade, the author of such works as Justine and 180 Days in Sodom. As the movie opens, the Marquis is revealed to be incarcerated in the Bastille during the French Reign of Terror. Despite the unpleasantness of his surroundings, he is still writing his stories. The movie skips forward by several years to where the Marquis is imprisoned in a mental asylum, one that is run by the brooding but progressive Abbe du Coulmier. The Marquis smuggles his work to the outside world through the efforts of Madeline, the laundress. She takes his supposedly therapeutic writings to an publisher, and this is how the Marquis’s work, Justine, is published. When the novel is published, it is so obscene that Napoleon Bonaparte demands that the author be executed, though he is advised against this action. Because of this, Dr. Royer-Collard is dispatched to the asylum to find a way to silence the Marquis. As this goes on, the Abbe develops feelings for Madeline despite his holy calling and teaches her to read and write. Dr. Royer-Collard arrives, but though he recommends cruel methods for rehabilitating the Marquis, the Abbe turns him away, citing a promise by the Marquis for better behavior for doing so. The doctor withdraws to a mansion with his young bride, a quick marriage which scandalizes and shocks the asylum. In response, the Marquis writes a farce that is meant to be performed at a public execution, sending the doctor into a rage and denying the Marquis his writing privileges. Throughout the course of the movie, the question is posed of whether salacious writings can be blamed for inciting violent or deviant behavior. To Madeline, the answer is no, while Dr. Royer-Collard states that the answer is yes. Between the two is the Abbe, who is torn between his sympathy for the Marquis and his desire for Madeline.