MPAA Rating: R

Entertainment: +1

Content: -4

Based on a stageplay, this fictional account looks at the last days of the Marquis de Sade (Goeffrey Rush) in the Charenton Asylum, where he is imprisoned for his pornographic writings. Abbe’ Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), the cleric in charge of the Asylum, believes in treating the patients with kindness and useful work. He allows the Marquis to write his sinful novels, thinking the exercise will purge the evil thoughts from his mind. But the Marquis has corrupted the laundry maid, Madeline (Kate Winslet), into smuggling his works to a publisher. Wanting to put an end to Marquis’ vile writings, Napolean sends Dr. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine), a behavioral scientist, to “cure” de Sade. But the doctor has his own demons to contend with and Madeline doesn’t realize the danger she faces in befriending the Marquis. Abbe’ Coulmier finds himself torn between helping all three. A mesmerizing tale with talented actors, but the subject matter should limit the audiences.

de Sade, whose violent pornographic writings inspired the term sadism, was both persecuted and praised for his scandalous works. So, in this fictional account, he becomes a martyr-like symbol of censorship, the corruptive potential of art, and resilience of the creative mind. As writing materials are taken away, he finds new ways to express his depraved stories. But the film is filled with images of violence and torture, such as beheadings, water dunkings and tongues cut out. And other scenes include graphic sexual acts and nudity. The doctor takes a young woman as wife who, after reading a de Sade novel, begins an adulterous affair. Coulmier dreams of having sex with a dead woman. And de Sade bites the cross in anger as the Abbe’ administers last rites. Even without the numerous obscenities, QUILLS makes heroes of depraved and corrupt characters. The explicit sexual content and gratuitous violent images argue for censorship rather than against it.

Preview Reviewer: Paul Bicking
Fox Searchlight

The following categories contain objective listings of film content which contribute to the subjective numeric Content ratings posted to the left and on the Home page.

Crude Language: Several (5) times - Moderate

Obscene Language: Many (12) times - F-word 8, s-word 1, other 3

Profanity: Few (4) times - Regular 2 (GD); Exclamatory 2(OG, Dear G)

Violence: Many times - Moderate and severe (basket of severed heads, guillotine blade drips blood, blade falls, man dunked in water, rape attempted, face burned with iron, woman slapped, man cuts finger, woman whipped, fires started, stabbing threat, body in bloody water, man put in iron cage, tongue cut out - off camera - shown in jar, man whips self, bloody rag in mouth

Sex: Few times - Graphic (two men and woman with nudity, couple on building steps with nudity, couple on funeral bier with nudity); implied few times (man in bed with woman, adulterous couple in bed)

Nudity: Several times (breast nudity, male rear, brief male genital profile and front, female frontal) Near Nudity - (low cut blouses/ dresses)

Sexual Dialogue/Gesture: Frequent (readings from de Sade novels, man’s hand on woman’s clothed breast, implied self-gratification, sexually explicit figurines, innuendo references to sexual acts and organs, nightgown torn, stageplay depicts sex acts, woman buys sex toys, references to deviant sex, woman seduces man, passionate kissing)

Drugs: Wine drinking

Other: Bible reading encouraged, man spits on Bible, man calls Mary ‘God’s whore,’ man offers to take woman’s punishment, crucifix figure cries blood, man bites cross when administered last rites

Running Time: 123 minutes
Intended Audience: Adults

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