20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Cast: Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Caine
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Photo Gallery, Trailer
The Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) is enjoying special privileges in the asylum he is imprisoned in. A French aristocrat, he has enough money to bribe everyone in the asylum, from the chambermaid, to the guards and his friendship with the sympathetic Abbe Coulmier (Joaquim Phoenix), who is running the institution, also helps making the asylum a fairly tolerable place for him to stay. As part of his therapy to rid his mind of the demons that haunt him, the Marquis is writing down his fantasies, and stories from his dark and sexually liberated imagination. Though never intended for publication, he manages to slip them to a local book publisher with the help of his chambermaid Madeleine(Kate Winslet). By many considered an aberration, the books nonetheless sell like hotcakes on the streets of France during the Revolution, and even Napoleon himself takes notice. Livid about the blasphemous and decadent writing, he orders the Marquis to be quietened and sends Doctor Royer-Collard (Michael Caine), a well-known torturer and sadist – although that term was not yet phrased at that time – to take care of business in the asylum. But the Marquis is without fear and decides to play his own games with the doctor, publicly ridiculing him, while all the while releasing more of his pornographic writing to the public. But before long, the doctor runs out of patience and makes the Marquis de Sade’s life a living hell.
Rush has a few really strong counter characters in the film, though. Michael Caine is simply despicable from the first moment he is on screen and never lets up. It once again shows the actor’s versatility and his ability to shine in any role, be it comedic, dramatic, tragic or a sinister part like this. Joaquim Phoenix leaves once again a strong impression as Abbe, and it appears he is making his mark in Hollywood at last. The slightly understated way he carries his roles and the true emotions help make his character come to real life. Most surprisingly, Kate Winslett shines in her role as Madeleine. A role that covers various ends of the spectrum, this part shows that she is more than the girl form "Titanic," and just like in "Sense & Sensibility" it is obvious that her classic face is perfectly suited for period pieces such as this.
The compression of the image material is also flawless, ensuring that the extremely high definition of the transfer is brought to splendid live on your TV screen. No <$pixelation,pixelation> or bleeding is evident anywhere in the transfer and the high bit rate that was used on this release ensures that colors maintain their strong hues and all the detail.
The film features a great music score that perfectly suits the subject matter. The Dolby Digital track manages to create a wide sound field for the music, giving each instrument of the orchestra room to breathe, thus creating a very spatial experience.
The disc also features a <$commentary,commentary track> by screenwriter Doug Wright, who goes into quite some detail in his elaboration. Covering character motivations, the setting, the times, the history and many of the production aspects, Wright delivers a commentary that is highly informative and very entertaining. Naturally the subject matter allows for a lot of information, especially character-based, but in his comment Wright ensures to give a complete mix of insight in all aspects that make this film work.
"Quills" is a great and rather unique film that comes in a top-notch presentation on this DVD. Daring at times, the movie never works with stereotypes, but instead opts to explore the characters we witness in a very human way. The resulting emotions are honest and never artificial, making "Quills" a memorable experience. Do yourself a favor and give this splendid movie a try. This DVD is a treat for the eyes and ears, and the film itself is a true feast for your intellect. Let the Marquis De Sade challenge you, too! You may like it.