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In a Napoleonic era insane asylum, an inmate, the irrepressible Marquis De Sade, fights a battle of wills against a tyrannically prudish doctor.
Marquis de Sade: Conversation, like certain portions of the anatomy, always runs more smoothly when lubricated.
Madeleine: Some things belong on paper, others in life. It's a blessed fool who can't tell the difference.
Marquis de Sade: Are your convictions so fragile they cannot stand in opposition to mine? Is your god so flimsey, so weak! For shame.
Marquis de Sade: You've already stolen my heart... as well as another more prominent organ, south of the Equator.
Coulmier: It's not even a proper novel. It's nothing but an encyclopedia of perversions. Frankly, it even fails as an exercise in craft. The characters are wooden, the diologue is inane. Not to mention the repetition of words like "nipple" and "pikestaff". Marquis de Sade: There I was taxed; it's true. Coulmier: And such puny scope. Nothing but the worst in man's nature. Marquis de Sade: I write of the great, eternal truths that bind together all mankind. The whole world over, we eat, we shit, we fuck, we kill and we die. Coulmier: But we also fall in love, we build cities, we compose symphonies, and we endure. Why not put that in your books as well.
Coulmier: It's nothing but an encyclopedia of perversions. One man killed his wife after reading them. Marquis de Sade: It's a fiction, not a moral treatise.
Marquis de Sade: Welcome to our humble madhouse, Doctor. I trust you'll find yourself at home.
Renee Pelagie: Can I impart to you his cruellest trick. Dr. Royer-Collard: Of course. Renee Pelagie: Once, long ago in the folly of youth, he made me love him.
Dr. Royer-Collard: We produce books for the discriminating collector. The compulsive inmates set the type, the listless ones do the binding and prepare the ink.
Simone: Sign it quickly, then you can ravish me again on the linens for which he so dearly paid. Prouix, the Architect: And then, I beg you, on the bearskin rug in his study. And finally, as a crowning gesture, we'll leave puddles of love on the Peruvian marble.
Renee Pelagie: Desperation has driven me past etiquette, all the way to frenzy. Dr. Royer-Collard: My schedule is not subject to the whim of lunatics. Renee Pelagie: I beg to differ, you work in a madhouse. Your every waking moment is governed by the insane.
Marquis de Sade: In order to know virtue, we must acquaint ourselves with vice. Only then can we know the true measure of a man.
Marquis de Sade: Why should I love God? He strung up his only son like a side of veal. I shudder to think what he'd do to me.
Madeleine: How can we know who is good - and who is evil? Coulmier: All we can do is guard against our own corruption.
Simone: Tell him I'm no fool, a prison's still a prison, even with Chinese silks and chandeliers.
Coulmier: But why must you indulge in his pornography? Madeleine: It's a hard days' wages slaving away for madmen, what I've seen in life - it takes a lot to hold my interest.
The Marquis de Sade: I have a proposition. Coulmier: You always do. The Marquis de Sade: Madeleine. She's besotted with me. She'd do anything I asked. She could pay you a visit. Coulmier: I don't know who you insult more, her or me. The Marquis de Sade: Part the gates of heaven, as it were. Coulmier: That's enough! The Marquis de Sade: You're too tense, darling. You could do with a long, slow screw. Coulmier: Good night, Marquis. [walks out the room] The Marquis de Sade: [shouts] Then bugger me! Goddamn you, Abbe! Have you no true sense of my condition? Of its gravity? My writing is involuntary, like the beating of my heart. My constant erection!
Madeleine: [reading from a page] His greast conquest was a woman six decades his senior, and a dozen years deceased. He made love with such vigor that it dislodged her bones, and yet he afforded her the highest compliment he afforded any woman. [long, suspenseful pause] Madame LeClerc: Well, go on! Madeleine: "Well worth the dig!"
Marquis de Sade: If someone would try to walk on water and drowned, would you blame the Bible?
Madeleine: Your publisher says I'm not to leave without another manuscript. Marquis de Sade: I've just the story. It's the unhappy tale... of a virginal laundry lass. The darling of the lower wards where they entomb the criminally insane. Madeleine: Is it awfully violent? Marquis de Sade: Most assuredly. Madeleine: Is it terribly erotic? Marquis de Sade: Fiendishly so. But it comes with a price. A kiss for each page.
Marquis de Sade: It's only a play.
Royer-Collard: If you're going to martyr yourself Abbe, do it for God, not the chambermaid.
Dr. Royer-Collard: I won't sully my hands with him. Marquis de Sade: Nor should you. That's the first rule of politics, isn't it? The man who orders the execution never drops the blade.
Coulmier: I love you Madeleine... as a child of God.
The Marquis de Sade: My glorious prose filtered through the minds of the insane. Who knows, they might improve it.
Prouix, the Architect: Madame, how could you... have you actually read this volume? Simone: I've memorized it. Would you like me to recite? Prouix, the Architect: There comes a time in a young lady's life when she has to cast book's aside, and learn from experience. Simone: That, Monsieur, requires a teacher.
Simone: Tell him that if he discovers our whereabouts, you'll slit your wrists with a razor, and I'll drive a hatpin through my heart. Prouix, the Architect: You'd do that, rather than forsake our love? Simone: No. But tell him I would anyway.
Coulmier: Listen to me Abbe and listen well. I've stared into the face of evil and I've lived to tell the tale and now, I beg you, for your sake, let me write it down.
Coulmier: You're not the anti-Christ. You're only a malcontent who knows how to spell.
Royer-Collard: You prefer a book to your husband's company? Well no wonder, I'm only flesh and blood - that's no match for the printed page!
Renee Pelagie: I've brought you chocolate pastilles. Marquis de Sade: Filled with cream, yes? [advancing on Renee] Marquis de Sade: You know I shan't touch them unless they're positively bursting - erupting - with cream.
Royer-Collard: Take this beast back to his cage!
Marquis de Sade: It's a powerful aphrodisiac, isn't it? Having power over another man.
Madeleine: He's a writer, not a madman.
Madeleine: It's a sin against God for me to refuse your kindness. But my heart's held fast here... Coulmier: By whom? The Marquis? Madeleine: Mother's not half so blind as you.
Abbe du Coulmier: You are not to entertain visitors in your quarters. Marquis de Sade: I'm entertaining you now, aren't I? Abbe du Coulmier: Yes, but I'm not a beautiful young prospect ripe for corruption. Marquis de Sade: Don't be so sure.
Marquis de Sade: I didn't create this world of ours. I merely recorded it.
Marquis de Sade: [voiceover, as Coulmier writes] Beloved reader, I leave you now with a tale penned by the Abbe du Coulmier, a man who found freedom, in the most unlikeliest of places: at the bottom of an inkwell, on the tip of a quill. However, be forewarned, it's plot is blood-soaked, it's characters depraved, and it's themes... unwholesome at best. But in order to know virtue, we must acquaint ourselves with vice. Only then can we know the full measure of man. So come... I Dare you... Turn the page...
Marquis de Sade: What you need, darling, is a long, slow screw
Madeleine: You can't be a proper writer without a touch of madness, can you?
Marquis de Sade: Ah, you've come to read my trousers.
Dr. Royer-Collard: You know how I define idealism, Monsieur Delbenet? Youth's final luxury.
Coulmier: Murderer... Your words... your words drove Bouchon... Marquis de Sade: Oh, for fuck's sake, Abbe! Suppose one of your precious inmates attempted to walk on water and drowned. Would you condemn the Bible? I think not.
Coulmier: An innocent child is dead. Marquis de Sade: So many authors are denied the gratification of a concrete response to their work. I am blessed.
Royer-Collard: Will you sleep soundly tonight? Coulmier: No. Put frankly, I never expect to sleep again.
Marquis de Sade: This is a rare vintage from an obscure village in Bordeaux. Rather than crush the grape underfoot, they place the fruit on the belly of a bride, and reap its juices when the young husband steers his vessel into port. Full-bodied flavor, with just a hint of wantonness. Bottoms up. Coulmier: It's from our own cellar. I recognize the taste. Marquis de Sade: I should have told you it was the blood of Christ. You'd believe that, wouldn't you?
Dr. Royer-Collard: Some men are beyond redemption.
Renee Pelagie: If you cure him, I mean really cure him, harness the beast that rages in his soul.
Marquis de Sade: It's an entire religion based on an oxymoron.
Marquis de Sade: These chastity vows of yours. How strict are they? Suppose you only put it in her mouth?
Marquis de Sade: Prepare yourself for the most impure tale ever to spring from the mind of man.
Madeleine: Don't come any closer Abbe, God's watching.
Marquis de Sade: I write what I see, the endless procession to the guillotine. We're all lined up, waiting for the crunch of the blade... the rivers of blood are flowing beneath our feet... I've been to hell young man, you've only read about it.
Coulmier: There are certain things... feelings... we must not voice. Madeleine: Why? Coulmier: They incite us to act on what we should not... cannot.
Madeleine: If I wasn't such a bad woman on the page, I couldn't be such a good woman in life.
[Royer-Collard taking the new Abbe for a tour around, and introduces him his predecessor] Royer-Collard: Prone to violence and perversions.
Abbe du Coulmier: I am not the first man God has asked to shed blood in his name. And I am not of the last.
Coulmier: Your terrible secret revealed, you're a man after all.