Dangerous Liaisons: Present and Past
Halfway through viewing Dangerous Liaisons, a remarkable contrast as well as a huge parallel came to mind. The film's principal characters' treatment of their promiscuity was quite different from what we see today. They were quite covert about their sexual relations, and often concocted cunning plans to assure the secrecy of their activities. Today we find quite the opposite taking place on our news programs and talk shows. It seems to me that the cause of this whole difference in treatment of sexuality is due to the advent of mass media. That pre-Revolutionary French society was not completely different from today, however. Like our treatment of the Clinton/Lewinsky scandal, the common people of the late 18th century French society were quick to ridicule the Marquise for her promiscuity revealed. We, as a society, are still just as quick to gossip over someone else's sins while being guilty of the same. It is simply a condition of being human. In short, the story set forth in the film Dangerous Liaisons shows both a striking contrast, due to technology, and a very remarkable parallel, due to a double standard brought on by the human condition, between the way sexual relations and promiscuity were viewed in the late 18th century and how we view them today at the close of the 20th.
The importance of stealth in promiscuous relations to the French aristocracy pervades the entire film. We see throughout the film that the Marquise is quite fond of entertaining guests in her domicile, which is flanked by a wall of mirrors. Early in the film we learn that there is another set of rooms entirely behind the wall, her "private" bedchambers. It is here that her illicit sexual encounters take place. We twice, in fact, see scenes during which she is entertaining a "respectable" guest in her main quarters, and then exits behind the wall of mirrors to find a lover already there waiting for her! Why does the Marquise use this separate bedroom? Why not just use her own? She is so covert in her activities that she probably does not even want the "aura" of sexual encounter to prevail in her regular bedroom. Someone may sense it. Perhaps a servant would accidentally barge in at an "inappropriate" time. Better to use a secret room where she knows that no one will enter without her entering with him. She cannot risk exposure of her promiscuous activities to the general public. She would surely fall from her pedestal within high society, because it simply was not respectable for a "lady" of her standing to be involved in such activities. Even though the majority of her peers behaved in similar fashion, they did not publicly accept such behavior.
In striking contrast to the attitude maintained by the Marquise is an event I learned of on a radio news program. Two Los Angeles 18-year-olds, calling themselves Diana and Mike to...