Quills (2000) - Rotten Tomatoes

Quills (2000)



Critic Consensus: Though hard to watch, this film's disturbing exploration of freedom of expression is both seductive and thought-provoking.

Movie Info

The Marquis de Sade was a man who liked to stir up trouble, at a time when his native France was in a state of tremendous political turmoil, and this historical drama examines how much controversy he could cause even under repressive circumstances. In the aftermath of the French Revolution, the Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush) manages to narrowly escape execution during the Reign of Terror, and instead is sentenced to the Charenton Asylum for the Insane. Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), the priest who heads the asylum, is sympathetic to the political machinations that have put the Marquis in his care, and allows him not only to write what he pleases, but to stage theater pieces using the other patients as actors. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine), a tyrannical doctor overseeing the mental institutions of Napoleonic France, is as outraged as the emperor when he reads Justine, a scabrous volume the Marquis penned while an inmate at Charenton, and he demands that de Sade be stopped. But Royer-Collard soon learns that stopping the Marquis from writing is not so simple; when de Sade's quills and ink are taken from him, he uses wine and even his own blood to write his stories. When these options are no longer available, he dictates his work with the help of Madeline (Kate Winslet), a laundry girl working at the asylum, who is fascinated by the notorious de Sade, though she declines his frequent requests to satisfy his notorious sexual appetites. Based on the play by Doug Wright (who also penned the screenplay), Quills was directed by Philip Kaufman, who previously documented the line between eroticism and literature in Henry and June and The Unbearable Lightness of Being. ~ Mark Deming, Rovimore
Rating: R (for strong sexual content including dialogue, violence and language)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Doug Wright
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 8, 2001
Box Office: $4.3M
20th Century Fox - Official Site


Geoffrey Rush
as The Marquis de Sade
Kate Winslet
as Madeleine
Joaquin Phoenix
as Abbe Coulmier
Michael Caine
as Dr. Royer-Collard
Billie Whitelaw
as Madame LeClerc
Jane Menelaus
as Renee Pelagie
Michael Jenn
as Cleante
Harry Jones
as Orvolle
Bridget McConnel
as Madame Bougival
Pauline McLynn
as Mademoiselle Clairwi...
Toby Sawyer
as Louison
Diana Morrison
as Mademoiselle Renard
Carol MacReady
as Sister Noirceuil
Tom Ward
as The Horseman
Ron Cook
as Napoleon
Julian Tait
as Pawnbroker
Tessa Vale
as Sister Flavie
Howard Lew Lewis
as First Vendor
Andrew Dunford
as Second Vendor
Lisa B. Hammond
as Prostitute
Matthew Fraser
as Lunatic Band Member
Jamie Beddard
as Lunatic at Play
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Quills

Critic Reviews for Quills

All Critics (131) | Top Critics (39)

"Quills" is sensational in every sense of the word.

Full Review… | February 23, 2012
Top Critic

It pokes at sexual taboos - it's pretty subversive, considering - but sexuality and creativity are indelibly linked, and its true subject is expression, repression and catharsis.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Quills, about the marquis de Sade, is a voluptuous impasto. Everything in it -- the colors, the locations, the people -- seems swirled with a mixture of decadence and grace.

Full Review… | May 21, 2001
New York Magazine/Vulture
Top Critic

Kaufman's biopic of the notorious Marquis de Sade is sharply uneven, serious, poignant, trashy, sleazy and sensationslist, marred by over-the-top turn from Geoffrey Rush.

Full Review… | February 8, 2011

a conceptual piece about the nature of creativity and questions of art

Full Review… | June 7, 2010
Old School Reviews

While it is horrible and sordid, it's also witty, fast-paced and intriguing as it explores freedom of expression.

Full Review… | June 25, 2004

Audience Reviews for Quills


My love for this film runs very deep indeed. As a fan of the Marquis de Sade and everything spawned after his name, as well as an advocate for the the uncensored underbelly of the literary greats, this film possessed everything someone such as myself could hope for. Moments of genuine hilarity blunted by the brutish historical truth, every single character in this film has a role to play and plays it magnificently. Rush is a superbly talented actor who never fails to keep my eyes on the screen and even Phoenix is acceptable as a preist with a naughty streak. A truly magnificent film.

Unknown Hobo

Super Reviewer

With a brilliant cast I did expect more from this. I'm unsure if she was going for a some sort of style, but Winslet looked like she couldn't act. Maybe that was just her character. Rush did a fantastic job as usual. I would have liked a better explanation to the beginning part. It seemed out of place compared to the rest of the film.

Sophie Burgess

Super Reviewer

An adaptation of the play based on a chapter of the life of the infamous Marquis De Sade whose lascivious writings scandalized post revolutionary France. Set within the walls of a church-run lunatic asylum where the Marquis was incarcerated to avoid the ignominy of prison, he is shown as a rebel using his literature to infuriate the religious establishment. Geoffrey Rush clearly relished the role and is ably supported by Joaquin Phoenix as the asylum's governor, a good man trapped within the framework of an intolerant heirarchy and Kate Winslett as the common serving girl who helps the Marquis distribute his works. Michael Caine is a little less convincing, probably because of his casting against type as the cruel, sadistic tyrant who is dispatched to "cure" him. It has shades of both Amadeus and The Madness Of King George, although the characterisation and drama of those films is not quite matched here, but it's an interesting and well made historical drama that's worth seeing for Rush's performance alone.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

Quills Quotes

Marquis de Sade: It's a powerful aphrodisiac, isn't it? Having power over another man.
– Submitted by Manuela V (2 years ago)
Marquis de Sade: I've been to hell, young man. You've only read about it.
– Submitted by Ryan B (3 years ago)

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