Sex and cruelty, pleasure and torment go hand in hand – our animal instinct lying dormant under layers and layers of civility, education, modernization and progress (the list can go on). What is more intriguing is the fact that there is absolute and utter bliss in outright bestiality. When this sleeping giant of desire wakes up, we shun it, we frown upon it and we label it “Sadism”.
Quills is the story of Marquis de Sade, yes you have guessed it right, he has unleashed the term sadism upon the world. Directed by Philip Kaufman, it stars Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix and Michael Cain.
What begins as a whimsical farce ends in a disturbingly haunting note. Quills is a fictionalised account of Sade’s life, where he writes impassioned feverishly about sex and cruelty and his pornographic material is smuggled out of the asylum he is incarcerated, by an equally virginal laundress Madeleine. He finds a sympathetic friend in Abbey Coulmier, who urges him to write to purge his obnoxious delusions.
His graphic writings find covert audience amongst Napoleon’s subjects and therefore he appoints the physician Collard to crack down and silence the troublemaker. The physician’s tyranny brings out the best in Sade, as he mocks, taunts, outsmarts, outwits indefatigably and remains invincible up until his death.
To keep Sade’s insanity and profanity in check, his quills are taken away from him but mere quills cannot limit his expression. He writes with whatever tool he has around him, sometimes wine, sometimes blood and when in deep anguish; his own feces.
The movie is a passionate poetry on artistic freedom within a repressive political regime. What holds true even in contemporary times too is that pornography and graphic content is still frowned upon and censored. The methods are different but intent still the same. The message that Quills perhaps wants to convey is that we are all expressions of our nature and we are best served not by control and suppression but by letting ourselves free so that the laws of nature can take its course.
The trailer of Quills