directed by Philip Kaufman
(20th Century Fox, 2000)

Quills is a wonderful, yet disturbing movie, especially for a writer. Set in the Napoleonic era of 18th-century France, it is the story the Marquis de Sade's experiences in an insane asylum. It is more than an excellent story; it is a study in the way the insane were viewed during that era and how they were treated. It is a heavy, graphic film.

De Sade (Geoffrey Rush) did have severe psychological problems due to the violence he had seen. Likely he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. When he was "institutionalized" -- locked in a dungeon-like place -- he defied the authorities by continuing to write his sexually graphic stories filled with extremely deviant sexual scenes, often horribly violent in nature. Of course, this was taboo in that era.

The authorities tried everything to stop him from writing. But friends who loved his writing and begged him to continue aided him. They would sneak his manuscripts to the publishers. To conceal his work, he would rip the covers off books and insert his own manuscripts into the covers.

His "keepers" -- no less than mentally deranged individuals themselves -- took away his quills and ink. He cut his finger and scribbled in blood on his clothes. When they put him in a dunking rack and tortured him, he shouted his story at the top of his lungs. He never gave in to them. No matter what they did to him, he continued to write. (And the things they did to him were of the most extreme type of torture!)

Boy, this movie will create an internal war in the viewer! Whether or not you support de Sade's type of writing, you have to support the man himself and his conviction to write. You must respect what he went through to get his words in print and have his stories heard. Whether you are for or against censorship, you have to admit that the "authorities" went way too far! This movie may well change your views on censorship entirely.

For a muse-driven writer -- the natural-born writer that has not been taught to write, but simply does it out of a burning need for expression -- this movie hits home in a big way. It is like an internal nuclear explosion. I felt such empathy with de Sade -- the worst fate for any writer would be to have the tools to write taken away. But to be tortured for something that comes naturally and forces its way into being is unthinkable.

The ending of Quills ripped me apart. You just have to see this one. It is a splendid movie, with very credible performances and delivery of superb dialogue. The backgrounds, props and costumes are on the money. The story flows smoothly and consistently. There was not one bad point to this movie that I could find -- I actually went back and watched it a second time, specifically looking for anything negative. I did not find anything. Outstanding!

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 22 February 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.