Juliette and Valmont are married for 11 years, living in Paris. They both love each other but to keep their love more passionate and to avoid the typical marriage problem of getting used they get adventurous. Both are free to have affairs with other men and women, only for the sake of physical pleasure. They will not fall in love with their extra marital friends, at any cost. This is the unbreakable law between them. Both discuss their affairs and even help out each other in manipulating and seducing the persons whom they find interesting. Once Juliette suggest Valmont to go to a ski resort and seduce Cecile, who is deeply in love with a student Danceny. he tries his best but soon realises her serious love for Danceny. He then meets Marianne, who is married with a baby, and goes after her. He realises that, even if Marianne likes him, she will never go to his bed. He explains all this to Juliette in a detailed letter and Juliette also arrives in the Ski resort. By then, Valmont had forced a night on the hapless Cecile. Juliette further manipulates her so that Valmont can continue to have a relation with her. Juliette realises that Valmont has really fallen for Marianne and is really desperate for her. She ask him to seduce her and then throw her away to prove that he has not broken their rule of no love. Valmont goes to Paris and goes out of his way to seduce Marianne and deeply falls in love with her. And then the climax is very dramatic.
This movie was based on a 17th C French novel. It could have been treated like a sex comedy, but it isnt. For those who are not used to a bit of French culture, this movie can be more than shocking. At the same time, it might also surprise viewers from countries like India in some ways. There are scenes where Danceny and Cecile is discussing their marriage, which is more like a page out of a typical Indian lovers discussions, wondering about the permissions of parents etc. I could not help thinking about our own morality which were imposed by the Colonial regimes as they were following those moral codes in the 18 to mid 20th centuries. They moved on, especially after the social revolutions of the 60's, but we Indians decided to stick on to this imposed morality as our tradition, with more and more passion, putting the responsibility of torch bearers of morality and culture wholly on women.
Anyways coming back to the movie, this must have been a great release in 1959. The way some scenes are told should have been quite novel for those days. I am sure it must have caused quite a lot of ripples as well. I especially was amused by the seduction scene of Cecile. That was brilliantly directed. Also inspite of being a French movie, there isnt much of nudity in this movie is also noteworthy. Sex is actually only on the background. The seductions and heartlessness is what is thrown at the viewer. Also except for Juliette's seduction of Danceny, it is more following Valmont. There are only some suggestions and a scene about the adventures of Juliette.
It also looks at one point about men trying to seduce women. Men, at least most men, would try to seduce a woman and the easier the woman falls for him, the faster he might stop it with her too. And such men really likes to take the challenge of seducing women who are not easy. This is quite nicely protrayed in this movie. The way Valmont is frustrated with Marianne's rejection is very nicely pictured and it is this rejection of hers which creates an obsession in him for her, and gradually makes him really feel for her.
I am afraid my inabilities to write is stopping me from expressing my views any further on this movie. I am sure anyways that this original French movie is much better as a movie than its later Hollywood adaptation. Still the climax was looking quite rushed.
The movie has some brilliant black and white photography and some good music.