December 15, 2000 0 By Fans
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (No Ratings Yet)

Still of Joaquin Phoenix in QuillsStill of Michael Caine in QuillsStill of Kate Winslet in QuillsStill of Geoffrey Rush in QuillsStill of Kate Winslet and Joaquin Phoenix in QuillsKate Winslet and Philip Kaufman in Quills


In a Napoleonic era insane asylum, an inmate, the irrepressible Marquis De Sade, fights a battle of wills against a tyrannically prudish doctor.

Release Year: 2000

Rating: 7.3/10 (27,841 voted)

Critic's Score: 70/100

Philip Kaufman

Stars: Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix

The infamous writer, The Marquis de Sade of 18th Century France, is imprisoned for unmentionable activities at Charanton Insane Asylum. He manages to befriend the young Abbe de Coulmier, who runs the asylum, along with a beautiful laundress named Madeline. Things go terribly wrong when the Abbe finds out that the Marquis' books are being secretly published. Emperor Napoleon contemplates sending Dr. Royer-Collard to oversee the asylum, a man famed for his torturous punishments. It could mean the end of Charanton and possibly the Marquis himself.

Writers: Doug Wright, Doug Wright


Geoffrey Rush

The Marquis de Sade

Kate Winslet

Madeleine 'Maddy' LeClerc

Joaquin Phoenix

The Abbe du Coulmier

Michael Caine

Dr. Royer-Collard

Billie Whitelaw

Madame LeClerc

Patrick Malahide


Amelia Warner


Jane Menelaus

Renee Pelagie

Stephen Moyer

Prouix, the Architect

Tony Pritchard


Michael Jenn


Danny Babington


George Antoni


(as George Yiasoumi)

Stephen Marcus


Elizabeth Berrington


Meet the Marquis de Sade. The pleasure is all his.


Official Website:
Fox Searchlight |

Release Date: 15 December 2000

Filming Locations: London, England, UK

Box Office Details

Budget: $13,500,000


Opening Weekend: $249,383
(26 November 2000)
(9 Screens)

Gross: $7,060,876
(29 April 2001)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


Hugh Jackman was considered for the role of Abbe de Coulmier, which went to Kate Winslet's choice of Joaquin Phoenix.


Errors made by characters (possibly deliberate errors by the filmmakers):
When Simone is buying her copy of "Justine", the date visible on the cover is MDCCCCVII: 1907. There is one C too many.


Marquis de Sade:
These chastity vows of yours. How strict are they? Suppose you only put it in her mouth?

User Review

provocative, daring study of sexuality


It's post-revolutionary France. Napoleon is in power. The Age of
Enlightenment is in full swing, yet the remnants of the Dark Ages still
linger to restrain the thinking of many a powerful monarch, religious leader
and rank-and-file common citizen. In all areas of life, the barriers to
freedom and self-expression are rapidly giving way, leaving traditional
institutions and values fighting for their very survival. And this includes
that most sensitive of all areas, the one that has, perhaps, caused more
consternation for the race than any other in our history – determining the
role that sexuality plays in defining who we are physically, emotionally and
spiritually. Long thought of as little more than a necessary evil,
sexuality is suddenly starting to be reexamined in the light of other
scientific and academic reassessments. Small wonder that at such a crucial
moment in mankind's sexual awakening, a figure like the Marquis De Sade
would emerge, a man whose name has since become synonymous with perversion,
deviancy and licentiousness. It is this epic struggle between religion and
nature for the soul of humanity that Philip Kaufman captures so brilliantly
in his wickedly perverse, mordantly witty and brilliantly acted film,

Director Kaufman, working from a screenplay by Doug Wright (based on his
play of the same name), chooses to start his tale almost at its end – at the
period when De Sade was already wasting away in an insane asylum, considered
too perverted and dangerous in his ideas to be allowed to run loose among
the general populace. Yet, it's hard to keep a creative genius down – and
De Sade has, unbeknownst to the priest who runs the facility, been regularly
smuggling out manuscripts to publishers on the outside, much to the chagrin
and delight of many elements of the French public. One of those least
amused is Napoleon himself, who decides that he must take action in
silencing this reprobate once and for all. He decides to send a
`specialist' in mental health – one Dr. Royer-Collard, a man more in tune
with the techniques of the Spanish Inquisition than of modern medicine – to
take charge and bring De Sade to his senses. Wright's and Kaufman's other
two main characters include the priest, The Abbe du Coulmier, who is keeper
of the institution, and Madeleine LeClerc, a beautiful young devotee of De
Sade's work who serves both as laundress and chief smuggler for the author
and his works.

In many ways, the most interesting conflict turns out to be the one between
De Sade and the Abbe, two men seemingly antipodes apart yet somehow able to
find a common ground of mutual respect and understanding. On the one hand,
we have a man who has completely thrown away all sexual inhibitions and
indeed lives to not only experience every possible sexual pleasure but to
encourage others to do so as well. On the other hand, we have a man who has
chosen a life of chastity and celibacy, opting to completely shut down the
sexual aspect of his life as a pious sublimation to God – and yet neither
extreme seems normal, healthy or practicable. In fact, near the end, De
Sade suffers the torment of realizing that someone he cares for very deeply
has become a tragic victim of one of his `ideas' run amuck, just as the
Abbe, after years of repression, finds himself inching ever closer to the
insanity that he is supposed to be curing in others.

Interestingly, the Abbe, the representative of the church that held the
world in the grip of the Dark Ages for so long, is actually a beacon of
enlightened reason compared to Dr. Royer-Collard, the self-ascribed `Man of
Science.' Here is an individual actually aligned with the Church's Medieval
methods, inflicting any form of excruciating physical and psychological
torture on his patients to achieve their ultimate `cure' – though we can see
by the way he subtly abuses his own sixteen year old wife that `power' is,
as always, the world's strongest aphrodisiac.

Special not must be taken of the superb performances by Geoffrey Rush,
Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Caine and Kate Winslet. Each does a superb job in
bringing these diverse and complex characters to vivid

In terms of art direction, costume design and cinematography, the filmmakers
do a fantastic job in recreating this strange world of the past – capturing
that startling admixture of piety and licentiousness that bespeaks the `dual
nature in Man,' which has forever served as the basis for the epic struggle
between religion and nature. In a world like the one we live in now – in
which explicit pornography has found a comfortable and, indeed, quite
lucrative niche – De Sade seems ever more a man ahead of his time. It was
his misfortune to be born into a world not quite ready to accept the ideas
he had to offer. Yet, had he been living in this century, perhaps we would
never even have heard of the name De Sade at all. Perhaps he would be just
another anonymous pornographer, using the camera rather than the written
word to graphically illustrate his darkest sexual longings. Then again,
who knows? Perhaps it would be he who founded a world famous magazine and
set up a mansion dedicated solely to the propagation of male sexual
pleasure. It is, in the face of `Quills,' a thought worth