Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

In director Stephen Frears' sexy period costume drama of 18th century one-upmanship, game-playing, seduction and romantic intrigue - adapted from the 1782 novel by Choderlos de Laclos, and remade as Milos Forman's Valmont (1989) and as Roger Kumble's Cruel Intentions (1999):

  • the tea scene between devilish, rakish, ex-lover Vicomte Sebastien de Valmont (John Malkovich) and the equally wicked, aristocratic wealthy widow Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil (Glenn Close) gave a "virtuoso of deceit" speech about her ability to maintain a deceptive facade about herself, when asked the question: "I often wonder how you manage to invent yourself"; she answered in summary: "...And in the end, I distilled everything to one wonderfully simple principle: win or die...If I want a man, I have him. If he wants to tell, he finds that he can't. That's the whole story"
  • the scene of Merteuil requesting revenge against her ex-lover the Comte de Bastide, by having the unprincipled Valmont seduce and 'deflower' Bastide's teenaged bride-to-be virgin Cecile De Volanges (Uma Thurman), a convent girl, by providing her with sexual lessons every night
  • also the bargaining wager by De Merteuil to corrupt the religiously-virtuous, married Madame De Tourvel (Michelle Pfeiffer): "Come back when you've succeeded with Madame de Tourvel....And I will offer you a reward....But I shall require proof....Written proof. Not negotiable!" - in exchange, she offered her bed for a night as a prize
Cecile De Volanges
Dumping Madame De Tourvel
  • the deceitful Valmont apathetically, cruelly and coldly dumped Tourvel after winning her love, with a shocking excuse repeated numerous times: "At this moment, for example, I'm quite convinced I'm never going to see you again... I'm so bored, you see. It's beyond my control....Well, after all, it's been four months. So, what I said: It's beyond my control....My love had great difficulty outlasting your virtue. It's beyond my control...You are quite right. I have been deceiving you with Emilie, among others. It's beyond my control...There's a woman. Not Emilie, another woman. A woman I adore. And I'm afraid she's insisting that I give you up. It's beyond my control...You are quite right, I am a liar. And it's like your fidelity, a fact of life. No more nor less irritating. Certainly beyond my control...Sorry. Beyond my control. Why don't you take another lover? Whatever you like. It's beyond my control....Listen, listen to me, you have given me great pleasure. But I simply cannot bring myself to regret leaving you. It's the way of the world. Quite beyond my control."
  • Valmont's cruel accomplishment of both challenges in order to win at all costs (the guilt-ridden Cecile miscarried Valmont's child, and Tourvel retired in poor and deteriorating health to a convent)
  • Valmont's demands of Merteuil after winning the wager: "But of course, the best thing about it is, I am now in a position to be able to claim my reward" - but she denied his claims, calling their arrangement "null and void" because Valmont didn't have written proof
  • the next scene of the discussion of their previous love, when she asked Valmont: ("Have you forgotten what it's like to make a woman happy? And to be made happy yourself?...We loved each other once, didn't we? I think it was love And you made me very happy"); Valmont replied: ("And I could again. We just untied the knot. It was never broken"); she responded: ("Illusions, of course, are by their nature sweet") - although he retorted that he wanted to be with her: ("I have no illusions. I lost them on my travels. Now, I want to come home. As for this present infatuation, it won't last but for the moment, it is beyond my control")
  • the outdoor sword duel in the snow between Cecile's music teacher Le Chevalier Raphael Danceny (Keanu Reeves) and Valmont, ending with the latter's death; his final words of advice doomed Merteuil: "Be careful of the Marquise de this affair, we are both her creatures, as I believe her letters to me will prove. When you have read them, you may decide to circulate them"; and then regretful over his treatment of Madame de Tourvel, Valmont asked for Danceny to relay his love to her on her death bed: "I want you to tell her that I cannot explain why I broke with her as I did. But that since then, my life has been worth nothing...Tell her, her love was the only real happiness that I have ever known"
  • the final images of the disgraced Merteuil at the opera house - humiliated after her deceptions were revealed in letters following Valmont's death

Merteuil's "Virtuoso of Deceit" Speech

Merteuil Requesting Revenge by Having Valmont Seduce Cecile

The Wager Regarding Madame De Tourvel

Duel - Valmont's Death

Merteuil Disgraced


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