as Marquise de Merteuil in DANGEROUS LIAISONS (1988)
The plot is motivated by a cruel wager between the debauched Marquise de Merteuil and her former lover, the Vicomte de Valmont. The Marquise challenges Valmont to seduce the virginal Cecile de Volanges before the girl can be wed. Valmont offers a more difficult counter-challenge: He bets the Marquise that he will be able to bed the very moral and very married Madame de Tourvel. In the course of carrying out his plan, Valmont is stricken with a sudden case of honor and remorse, while the Marquise becomes all the more vicious.
"When I came out into society I was 15. I already knew that the role I was condemned to, namely to keep quiet and do what I was told, gave me the perfect opportunity to listen and observe. Not to what people told me, which naturally was of no interest, but to whatever it was they were trying to hide. I practiced detachment. I learned how to look cheerful while under the table I stuck a fork into the back of my hand. I became a virtuoso of deceit."
- Marquise de Merteuil
For her fifth nomination before a long gap of 24 years, Glenn Close plays the literary iconic character of Marquise de Merteuil from the classic written by Choderlos de Laclos. Member of the French nobility, the Marquise has been forced to comply with the social rules of her gender at that time. Strong-willed and ambitious, she has grown spiteful from consistently being forced to "Keep quiet and do as told" by the male gender, and so she has made it her business to do whatever she could to dominate the male gender, and avenge her own. At first we could think it’s a one dimensional character, but it is much deeper than we may think. Glenn Close portrays her as a manipulative and immoral woman who uses her beauty and intelligence to both maintain her position in the society but also to avenge herself on anyone who has wronged her in the past. Her true nature is hidden behind a mask of virtue and morality, she has created. She’s and I quote “a virtuoso of deceit”.
Glenn Close takes a risk showing us the human side of this devilish character. She shows us perfectly her weaknesses and her strengths. She’s a vain and jealous woman who doesn’t like when someone takes what she thinks belonged to her. In society, she’s considered by her entourage as a virtuous person. She is always radiant and joyful, full of gratitude. This ambivalence is beautifully shown by Glenn Close. It’s a remarkable performance, and I don’t think another actress could have done a better job. Another actress could have easily fallen in the overacting thing. Her relationship with Valmont is overwhelming, they need each other. It’s the only person with whom she’s truly herself, she can drop her mask with him. When the latter turns against her, she can’t admit it, and declares “WAR". It’s at this moment that her world begins to fall apart. The scene where you see the marquise hysterical and destroying the room is so powerful. Also, the last scene at the Opera is priceless, her mask drops, and her face shows us so many emotions, mainly despair. She has lost everything: her reputation, her revenge, her position is the society. It's one of the best scenes ever played, everything is on her face, no word. Marquise de Merteuil is a woman ahead of her time, and Glenn Close shows this wonderfully.
[John Malkovich is exquisite playing Valmont, and should have been nominated for an academy award. He gives a multi-layered performance. On the other hand, Michelle Pfeiffer is also great showing us vulnerability, kindness and softness.]
""[The two leads) played to perfection by Close and Malkovich... their arch dialogues together turn into exhausting conversational games, tennis matches of the soul."
- Roger Ebert
What a joy seeing such a performance on screen. Glenn Close gives a tour de force, and I imagine it was a thrill for her to play it. She’s not that much in the movie, but her presence is felt through the entire movie. Her performance is priceless. From an one-dimensional character, Glenn Close gives a very layered performance led by cruelty (her favorite word) and revenge.