Taglines: As unpredictable as love itself.
In eighteenth century France, the Marquise de Merteuil (Annette Bening), a beautiful wealthy widow, learns from her cousin Madame de Volanges (Siân Phillips) that Volanges’ 15-year-old daughter Cécile (Fairuza Balk) has been betrothed to a middle-age man named Gercourt (Jeffrey Jones)—Merteuil’s own secret lover.
Volanges confides in Merteuil that the arranged marriage required that Cécile be raised in a convent to ensure her chastity. Unaware that Merteuil is Gercourt’s paramour, Volanges reveals that according to Gercourt, he is having trouble breaking off relations with his “former” mistress who is mentally unbalanced.
Angered over the loss of her lover and his slight of her character, Merteuil devises a devious plan of revenge. She approaches her former lover, the Vicomte de Valmont (Colin Firth), and proposes that he seduce the virgin Cécile prior to her wedding night when Gercourt will learn he was “not the first to arrive”. Valmont declines Merteuil’s request.
He is more interested in pursuing Madame de Tourvel (Meg Tilly), a beautiful married woman staying at his aunt’s estate. When the subject of infidelity is introduced, Tourvel insists she would never be unfaithful to her husband who is traveling abroad on business. Merteuil later mocks Valmont for his futile desire for Tourvel and makes him a wager: if Valmont succeeds in bedding Madame de Tourvel, he may also bed Merteuil; if he fails, he must consign himself to a monastery.
After learning that Cécile’s music teacher, Danceny (Henry Thomas), has been writing love letters to Cécile, Merteuil gains the confidence of the young girl who confesses she loves Danceny. Merteuil then convinces her cousin to allow Cécile to join her in the country while helping Cécile write secret love letters to Danceny. Soon after, Merteuil and Cécile join Valmont at his aunt’s country estate where Valmont flirts playfully with the innocent young girl. When Merteuil suggests that Valmont help Cécile write a love letter to Danceny, Valmont agrees and ends up taking Cécile’s virginity. When Cécile confides in Merteuil about her experience with Valmont, Merteuil encourages the girl to marry Gercourt and keep Danceny as her lover.
Meanwhile, Valmont is unsuccessful in his numerous attempts at wooing Tourvel, who has been warned of his sexual scheming and debauchery. When Tourvel feels her defenses weakening and her attraction to Valmont growing, she flees to the city to get away from the temptation.
After learning of her departure, Valmont rides to her residence and is there when she arrives. Surprised by Valmont’s romantic actions and unable to resist her feelings for him, Tourvel finally returns his affections and they make love. In the morning, Tourvel leaves for the market to prepare a meal for her lover, but when she returns Valmont is gone.
Valmont is a 1989 French-American drama film directed by Miloš Forman and starring Colin Firth, Annette Bening, and Meg Tilly. Based on the 1782 French novel Les Liaisons dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos, and adapted for the screen by Jean-Claude Carrière, the film is about a scheming widow who bets her lover that he cannot corrupt a recently married honorable woman. During the process of seducing the married woman, he ends up falling in love with her. Valmont received an Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design (Theodor Pištěk).
Directed by: Milos Forman
Starring: Colin Firth, Annette Bening, Meg Tilly, Fairuza Balk, Siân Phillips, Jeffrey Jones, Henry Thomas, Fabia Drake, Isla Blair, Ian McNeice
Screenplay by: Jean-Claude Carrière
Production Design by: Pierre Guffroy
Cinematography by: Miroslav Ondrícek
Film Editing by: Nena Danevic, Alan Heim
Costume Design by: Paule Mangenot, Theodor Pistek, Carine Sarfati
Art Direction by: Loula Morin, Albert Rajau, Martina Skala
Music by: Christopher Palmer
Distributed by: Orion Pictures
Release Date: November 17, 1989