Directed by Rachel Suissa, the 2022 French film Dangerous Liaisons revolves around Tristan Badiola and Vanessa Merteuil, who pretends to be in a relationship to satisfy her Instagram followers.
Vanessa challenges Tristan to have sex with Célène, a new student who has joined the duo’s high school. Despite Célène being engaged to Pierre, Tristan decides to meet the challenge, only to become romantically involved with her.
With that, the Netflix romantic movie progresses through the emotional conflicts that Tristan and Célène face as the former moves forward with the secret challenge. If you’re curious to know about the possible real or fictional origins of the movie, you’re in the right place!
Is Dangerous Liaisons based on a true story or a book?
Cut to the chase, no, Dangerous Liaisons is not based on a true story. The film is loosely based on the 18th century French novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses’. Laclos’ novel revolves around the Marquise de Merteuil and the Viscount de Valmont, who manipulates and exploits others using seduction.
They celebrate their “wins” and brag about how good they are at taking advantage of others.
In the film, Tristan and Vanessa do the same. When Célène expresses how she can only share intimacy with her fiancé Pierre, Tristan bets his beach house to manipulate and exploit her. He brags about Vanessa that he will have sex with Célène even if she turns him off. Vanessa, on the other hand, seduced the school principal, only to not have sex with him, losing a bet to Tristan.
Vanessa and Tristan are narcissistic rivals like the Marquise de Merteuil and Viscount de Valmont are in the book. Vanessa’s last name, Merteuil, is a reference to the inspiration behind her character, the Marquise de Merteuil.
In the novel, Merteuil challenges the Viscount to seduce Cécile de Volanges. Viscount also falls in love with Madame de Tourvel after seducing her. Célène is apparently a combination of Cécile and Madame de Tourvel from the novel. Although the premises of Suissa’s novel and film are similar, the director brought about several changes to the film’s narrative. In the novel, Merteuil wants to corrupt Cécile because her mother is planning her marriage to Merteuil’s ex-lover. However, in the film, Célène’s fiancé Pierre does not know Vanessa.
Parallels with Dangerous Liaisons
Although the novel is fictional, its narrative reflects the reality of 18th century France. Laclos offers a critical look at the vanity and deprivation of French nobility through his novel. Suissa explores youth deprivation by setting her film’s narrative in modern times. Just as Laclos exposes the emptiness of the French aristocracy, the director exposes the emptiness of the “Instagram generation”, whose existence and relevance are dictated by the fame conquered by social networks.
Dangerous Liaisons is significantly rooted in reality because of the social commentary it offers, as Laclos’ novel reflects the era in which it was written.
The Swiss film, therefore, manages to present a dimension of today’s reality through its fiction.