Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dangerous Liaisons (1988 - dir. Stephen Frears)

Eighteen years ago, I published some research on the evolutionary psychology of intersexual and intrasexual mating deception. At the time, I remember not being able to get this film out of my head. Based on the novel Les Liaisons dangereuses by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons is a near perfect expression of the deceptive tactics engaged in by men and women in their romantic machinations. While there are themes in this film that go beyond deception, this seems to me to be the thread that weaves the narrative together.

Male intersexual deception appears to center on presenting oneself as more in love with/enamored by the woman in question than one actually is, as well as deceptively higher in status. Female intersexual deception is, relative to males, more focused on physical appearance enhancement. It is important to understand that these reflect relative comparisons and not absolute expectations.

This behavior can be seen in full display in Dangerous Liaisons. It is a remarkable, beautifully scripted film and I would love to hear any of your thoughts about it.

Inventing Yourself


  1. Great choice! This is one of my favorite films and though there are countless movies with similar themes, no other has, for me, better delivered the goods. Perhaps the period setting (and our somewhat romanticized vision of it) lend itself to the subtle yet delicious posturing and dialog that makes scenes like the one you offer so powerful. For me, the most devastating, and maybe for the topic of this post, most interesting scene, is when Valmont repeatedly tells Madame de Tourvel that his reasons for ending their relationship is "beyond my control". As he looks at himself in the mirror echoing that hurtful phrase, you sense he is understanding his role in the Marquise's scheme yet continues almost as if he is unable to stop. Heartbreaking and fascinating.
    Great idea for a blog. I look forward to more.

  2. Thanks for the post, David! Glad to see that all is going well in Korea...