LONDON — The latest screen adaptation of the 1782 novel Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, imagines a backstory to its key characters as they get caught in a game of sex, power, and revenge.
The new TV series sees the passionate love affair of protagonists Marquise de Merteuil and Vicomte de Valmont turn sour in pre-revolutionary Paris. Young, poor, and traumatized by their past, the kindred spirits are driven apart as they seek a better life for themselves, eventually turning into morally corrupt rivals who use seduction and manipulation to destroy lives around them.
Earlier screen adaptations of the book include Stephen Frears’ 1988 film Dangerous Liaisons with Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer and 1999’s Cruel Intentions starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Reese Witherspoon.
“It is a prelude to what we see later with the book and the Malkovich version,” Australian actor Nicholas Denton, who plays Valmont, told Reuters.
“It’s their kind of origin story. We see them and we see why they become the way they are.”
The series’ creator, writer, showrunner, and executive producer Harriet Warner said she was inspired by one particular letter in the epistolary novel, in which the marquise describes creating herself to survive and to navigate the world she is in.
The details made Ms. Warner wonder who the marquise, who goes by Camille and is played by Australian Alice Englert in the series, was before. To tell that story, Warner assembled a largely female-led team around her.
“It’s interesting because my slight reservations about coming to it was as a feminist, how to love this destructive narcissist who’s Valmont,” she said.
“As key as discovering the way into Camille was the way into Valmont, that meant that you can understand his behavior. There’s a complexity, I think, that the show allows the characters that you don’t get in the novel. In the novel you have two very spoilt people, destroying women as a game.”
The eight-episode first season of Dangerous Liaisons premieres on LIONSGATE+ on Sunday. — Reuters