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The Marquis de Sade - The Crimes of Love
I decided to watch movies from a list I found on the internet of the most disturbing films ever made.  The most recent of which was called "Salo, 120 days of Sodom".  120 Days of Sodom was originally written by the Marquis de Sade.  I find that I'm running into a lot of people who are not actually familiar with the Marquis de Sade, which includes my mother (which, when you think of it, is the one person who should not know about the Marquis de Sade, right?).  Anyway, the Marquis de Sade was a French author who lived around the time of the French Revolution, 1740 -1814 to be exact.  He was a low aristocrat with over-confident sense of self.  He was best known for his sadistic actions and writings, so much so that the word "sadism" comes from his name.  Shockingly, I've run into people who are blissfully unaware of the meaning of the word "sadism".  Nowadays, people use it to simply mean finding enjoyment in causing harm to others, but the actual definition is "sexual pleasure obtained by inflicting harm (physical or psychological) on others", a sexual fetishism if you will.

Now "Salo, 120 of Sodom" was a 1975 updated version of the work by the Marquis de Sade.  Instead of French aristocrats, the director of this film set it in fascist Italy.  Four politically high level men round up 9 young men and 9 young women and take them to their countryside mansion to be their sex slaves.  The rules of the house are that the slaves must be present in a certain room to listen to stories of sexual indiscretions and then be forced to do whatever the four men want.  Another rule is that vaginal sex is forbidden, because they are not interested in the idea of sex for procreation, but want to be sure to enjoy sex for only the pleasure it provides.  Prayer, or calling out to God, is also rewarded with death.  Lewd stories are told and extremely young men and women get sodomized.  The men and women are forced at one point to behave like dogs on leashes and beg for scraps of food. 

The stories then become of a scatological nature.  The men and women are required to hold their bowel movements until dinner at which time all of the aristocrats and the forced slaves eat their feces.  One slave objects to the taste and the storyteller is shocked that she would behave so in face of such a delicacy.  As would be expected from the Marquis de Sade, many young men and women end up being brutalized at the end.  They have eyes dug out of their heads or are burned by hot irons and eventually killed while being sodomized. 

What struck me as interesting in this movie was the strange philosophical asides that were said between tortures.  The aristocrats would talk about how the slaves were their for their enjoyment and that they were justified in their treatment as a result of their birthright or their standing in society.  It reminds me of the biblical sentiment that animals are on the earth for the use of man as a justification of poor treatment of animals.  I took from this that the Marquis de Sade was talking satirically, attacking the aristocratic system and treatment of the poor.  As it turns out, I don't think he was, rather he believed some of what his character's spoke.  Nonetheless, he is fascinating on many levels.  He has been referenced by early psychologists for his views of human nature, he was viewed as a champion for the surrealist movement that occurred a hundred years after his death, even later than that he provided influence to post-structuralism, most notably, Michael Foucault.

Influenced by the Age of Enlightenment, the Marquis de Sade was a strong believer in rational thought and science.  He believed that unexplained phenomena was simply something that was yet to be discovered.  As a result, he believed religion to be the crutch of a superstitious man who could not fathom that things were simply not yet explained.  He was an atheist to the point that he requested that he be buried in an unmarked grave without a religious ceremony.  While he was placed in an unmarked grave, he was given a religious ceremony against his wishes.  As a result of his belief in science, he developed a strong belief in what he considered the natural order of things.   More specifically, he viewed a variety of vices to be natural urges.  He absolutely hated the aristocracy which purported virtue but practiced vices.  His vices included the following account from the Gazette d'Utrecht on April 26, 1768:

"Monsieur de Sade...going alone to his residence at Arcueil near Paris, chanced upon a beggar-woman whom he took with him to his house on the pretext that out of charity he wished to add her to his household, for his service.  But when she arrived, he led her into an isolated room, bound her hands and feet, and stopped up her mouth to prevent her crying out.  Taking a small knife, he made a number of incisions in various parts of her body and then melted some kind of Spanish wax into the cuts.  Having done this, he calmly went out to take the air, leaving the victim of his ferocity under lock and key.  However, she managed to free herself and jumped from the window without adding any more injury to herself than she had already sustained.  All the villagers who saw her would have massacred the Comte (his actual title) de Sade if he had not fled.  It is thought that he has lost his reason.  His family has been granted an order for him to be detained at the chateau of Saumur, and the perforated woman has withdrawn the complaint she had made in court in consideration of a sum of money."

By the way, "perforated woman" is not a phrase you see often.

The Marquis insisted that the woman was actually a prostitute and that prostitutes are paid for their pain and trouble.  Despite the settlement the Marquis did serve jail time for this incident.  In fact, he spent 25 years of his life in prisons for various offenses.  He most notably spent time in the Bastille where he had an entire floor to himself in one of the towers.  The Marquis, being a "low" aristocrat, believed that he was being used as an example to other aristocrats to clean up their own libertine behaviors.

The Marquis de Sade's novels are known for their sadistically sexual stories that are controversial by today's standards.  They were only released in 1985 in England after a legal battle.  In all honesty, I find his writing style to be quite poor.  His writings hold fascination by their dastardly plots, sadistic horror, and unique philosophical musings.  The pornographic portions of his writing are extremely graphic as in Justine, Juliette, and 120 Days of Sodom.

The only book of the Marquis de Sade that is available in the Las Vegas, Clark County Library system is his mildest work, The Crimes of Love.  Kind of ironic in that Las Vegas is considered sin city.  Where can you find his more lewd writings?  Why at the Salt Lake City library system, of course.  If it isn't pure alcohol, boobs, or gambling, it is too much sin for Las Vegas.

Anyway, The Crimes of Love, a group of short stories, does not have descriptions of sadistic sexual acts.  The Marquis de Sade wrote it, in part, to appease critics who thought his works were too graphic.  The sadism rather focuses on psychological torture.  One story, Miss Henrietta Stralson or The Effects of Despair: An English Tale, seems to be an answer to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice.  I would have bet my life on it if it wasn't for the fact that Pride and Prejudice was published after this story was written.  Here is my review of Pride and Prejudice:

I don't get it. I got nothing from this book.
It seems to be the equivalent of writing notes back and forth:
"Do you like me? Mark 'Yes' or 'No'."
"I'm ever so wistful now."
"OK, I"
"Yay, my heart dost gladden in my heaving breast."

The Marquis de Sade, like Jane Austen, focused on passing notes and calling on another's houses.  In this love triangle, Henrietta unwillingly catches the eye of a wealthy aristocrat, but she is promised to another.  The aristocrat, named Granwel, decides to stop at nothing to "have" Henrietta.  He tricks her into coming to his house and threatens to rape her.  She says that she does not love her fiancée, named Williams.  She persuades Granwel that he can have her in love rather than have her by force, but first she must break off her engagement.  He agrees and she, in turn, thanks him graciously for not raping her.

Granwel later learns that she actually does love Williams.  As the result, he claims to have been deceived (mind you to prevent him from raping her).  He decides to take his vengeance for her treachery.  He sets out to financially ruin Williams and hatches a scheme to have her arrested as a villain (which fails).  Here is an excerpt:

"'I worship her!' exclaimed Granwel, seeing his cup of joy overflow. 'And this time she shall not escape me!  However violent the methods I have adopted to possess her may be, they do not fill me with remorse, since I am consoled by the pleasure she shall give me... Remorse! Can a heart like mine ever know the meaning of such a feeling?  The habit of evildoing expunged it long ago from my calloused soul.  A host of beautiful women, all seduced like Henrietta, deceived like her, abandoned like her, could tell her if I was ever moved by their tears, alarmed by their struggles, moved by their shame, restrained by their charms... Well, here is one more name to add to the list of the illustrious victims of my debauchery.  And what use would women be if they were not good for that?... I defy anyone to prove to me that nature created them for any other reason.  Let us leave the absurd mania for setting them on pedestals to the morons.  By spouting such lily-livered nonsense, we have encouraged women to get above themselves.  They observe that we great store by the petty matter of having them, and accordingly think that they too are entitled to attach a great price to the same business and oblige us to waste on romantic elucubrations precious time which was meant only for pleasure...."

Oddly enough, many feminists, such as Angela Carter, have come out as Marquis de Sade supporters.

My favorite story in The Crimes of Love has got to be Florville and Courval.  Twist after dramatic twist, a woman discovers that she has had a son with her brother.  Later in life she is raped by her son (not knowing it was her son, of course) and killing him in the process.  She later ends up unknowingly marrying her father after condemning a woman to be hung on the gallows.  The woman ends up being her mother...of course.  The woman in the middle of all of this, after learning all that she has done, unceremoniously "blows her brains out".

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I decided to watch movies from a list I found on the internet of the most disturbing films ever made.

Seriously? Yikes! You must truly be needing some hardcore distraction these days. I am firmly in the camp of "Once you've seen it, you cannot un-watch it."

Right, would you rather watch a film that you will forget?

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