De Sade (film)  

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 This page De Sade (film) is part of the Marquis de Sade series  Illustration: Portrait fantaisiste du marquis de Sade (1866) by H. Biberstein
This page De Sade (film) is part of the Marquis de Sade series
Illustration: Portrait fantaisiste du marquis de Sade (1866) by H. Biberstein

Related e



Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

De Sade is a 1969 American film directed by Cy Endfield In this film, Rose Keller is played by Uta Levka. It is a romanticized biography scripted by Richard Matheson and directed by Cy Endfield. The film more or less presents the major incidents of Sade's life as we know them, though in a very hallucinatory fashion. The film's nudity and sexual content was notorious at the time of release, and Playboy ran a spread based around it. Keir Dullea plays the Marquis (here named Louis-Aldonze-Donatien) in a cast that includes Lili Palmer, Senta Berger, Anna Massey, and John Huston. It premiered on August 27 in the United States.

Tagline: He made evil an art, virtue a vice... and pain a pleasure!


Keir Dullea, in his first leading role after 2001, plays the title character in a film characterized by its psychedelic imagery and go-go sensibilities. He is terrorized by his uncle and haunted by his own past before embarking on a pattern of debauchery.

John Huston appears as Abbot De Sade.


The film opens on a winter scene with the middle-aged Marquis de Sade (Keir Dullea) arriving on horseback at one of his ancestral estates. He looks at an amulet he is carrying and compares it with the insignia at the gate post: both bear an elaborate figure 8. Suddenly, police officers rush forth from the estate and inform the Marquis that he is under arrest. They open fire on him as he is forced to flee, and the opening credits begin.

The Marquis arrives at a large castle, which will later be identified at his ancestral home La Coste. Upon entering the edifice, he sees an old man wandering about, who does not acknowledge the Marquis when he is challenged. The Marquis enters the theater at La Coste, where he meets his uncle, the Abbe (John Huston), who persuades him to stay to watch an entertainment that has been prepared for him. The play commences, and is a parody of the Marquis' parents haggling with M. and Mme. Montreuil over the prospective marriage of their children. The Marquis, or Louis as he is now identified, interrupts the play and flashes back in time to the actual negotiations.

Entering the house as a young man, Louis sees a beautiful young woman, the lady Anne (Senta Berger), doing needlepoint and singing a romantic song. He enters the room where the marriage contract is being signed, and upon signing, he learns that he is betrothed to the Montreuils' older daughter Mlle. Renee (Anna Massey), and not Anne as he had expected. He sees a vision of Anne escaping him.

Louis flees his home and is in hiding with a lover, who reads him a letter from his father, which indicates that Louis could do a term in prison for breaching the marriage contract. De Sade decides it is in his best interests to marry Renee after all.

At the wedding ceremony, Louis sees an illusion of Anne fleeing the chapel, and pursues her through the castle. He enters the marriage chamber, where he finds Renee to be very frightened and cold to his charms. The scene cuts to an orgy with the Marquis and several young prostitutes, intercut with shots of Renee as if she can see what is happening. Louis begins to get very rough in his play with one of the young women, who screams "Enough!" The action stops, and the Marquis explains some of his philosophy to the women. This is interrupted by the police, who arrest De Sade on charges of corrupting the "innocent" girls.

The middle-aged Marquis is seen in a dark dungeon, from which he emerges into the theater with his uncle again. He says he must leave, but his mother-in-law, Mme. de Montreuil (Lilli Palmer) tells him he will go nowhere. He is a young man in the Montreuil household again, and is distraught because Anne is being sent away to a convent. Mme. de Montreuil interrupts his liaison with her protege, Mlle. Collette, to tell him he will be allowed to attend the social season. Louis is introduced to an actress, La Beauvoisin, with whom he begins an affair and for whom he builds the theater at La Coste.

The first play performed is for the benefit of the Abbe, who is chagrined to see that the performance is about his own misuse of the young boy Louis. In a flashback, the actual event is played out. Young Louis sees his uncle buying the favors of a housekeeper's young niece. When Louis is caught observing the exchange, the Abbe compels the young girl to whip Louis. The girl obeys to save herself from the lash. Hence, the Marquis's later deeds and philosophy are given a cod-Freudian origin.

The action returns to the aftermath of the performance at La Coste. The Abbe tells Louis that he has a special treat arranged. Louis enters a darkened room, where he sees his father in a coffin. The old man he had seen earlier is also present in the room. The old man tells Louis that he is unjust in blaming his father for his own circumstances.

The action shifts to the baptism day of one of Louis' own children. De Sade leaves the church, again in pursuit of a vision of Anne. Outside, he meets Rose Keller, a widow who has fallen upon hard times. He has a liaison with her, where he ties her up and flagellates her buttocks with a sword. Mme. de Montreuil is forced to pay Rose for her silence, and to send Louis back into exile at La Coste.

At La Coste, seeing Anne through a window, Louis rushes out only to find himself middle-aged and in the theater again. The Abbe explains to him the mystical significance of the number 8. Louis counts to eight, and finds himself young and in the process of building his theater. Anne enters and speaks with him briefly, but then disappears before his horrified eyes.

Louis then finds himself at an elaborate orgy that has been arranged for him, where he is whipped into unconsciousness. He awakens back in his prison cell. The Abbe calls to him from the theater, telling him that it is all only make-believe. Louis is suddenly in a carriage with Anne bound for Italy. Louis stops at a friend's house to borrow some money, but finds himself ambushed by the police. He escapes back into the carriage, but in place of Anne sits the old man he keeps seeing.

Louis makes passionate love with Anne, and tells her he may have found the moment of reality he has been seeking. The police enter and arrest him again. Back in his prison cell, he sees a vision in his mirror of Mme. de Montreuil disowning Anne and his uncle the Abbe seducing her. He breaks the mirror. Mme. de Montreuil visits him in prison, and tearfully tells him he has ruined her family and that he will remain imprisoned forever.

Back on the stage, a mock trial is held where the Marquis is accused of murdering Anne. The mysterious old man is present at the proceedings, and Anne herself appears to accuse Louis of her murder. Louis ruefully remembers Anne's death in Italy from the plague.

Louis enters a caravan where a gypsy tells him his fortune, and the significance of the number 8 and the amulet he carries. The gypsy reveals herself to be the Abbe, and they are back on the stage again.

De Sade finds himself older again, and talking with Renee about their misfortunes and regrets. He tells her he can find no meaning in life.

A drunken debauchery begins at La Coste, with Louis and some drunken revelers destroying the house. Louis states that the illumination has gone from his life. It seems that he is referring to the death of Anne, but he begins to see visions of Renee in the midst of his revel.

The old man lies on his death bed in prison, crying out for Renee's forgiveness. It is revealed that the old man is the Marquis himself. He tells his attendant that he has been following the young Marquis as he seeks his one moment of reality. He doesn't know if he found it, but he thinks he will look one last time. The old man closes his eyes.

The scene cuts back to the beginning, with the middle-aged Marquis arriving at La Coste, and comparing his amulet with the insignia on the gate post, as the Abbe's voice explains the meaning of the number 8.

The end credits roll.


  • Dullea's father, Robert Dullea, appeared as the aged Marquis De Sade in the final scene of the film because Keir didn't want to go through the old age makeup, so he suggested they hire Robert for this scene.

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