Marat/Sade (1966)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Period Film, Political Drama  |   Release Date - Feb 22, 1967 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - United Kingdom , United States   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Jonathan Crow

Peter Brook's Marat / Sade bristles with an intensity and visual complexity rarely found in adapted stage productions. Though ostensibly a performance set in an asylum, the borders in Marat / Sade seem far too permeable and the subject matter far too relevant to its 1966 audience to be simply that. At the play's opening, the lines between inmate and doctor, real and unreal seem just as immutable as the metal bars separating the performers from the audience. As the film progresses, it evolves into a stunningly subtle treatise of power of all forms. Marat preaching revolution from his bathtub represents not only political power, but the power of the masses. Monsieur Coubnier, who periodically interrupts the play to preach platitudes about the enlightenment of Napoleanic culture when de Sade's social commentary grows too sharp, embodies the power of the institution and of convention. Finally de Sade himself welds authorial control. All three vie for the upper hand in an increasingly pitched battle until the film's chaotic climax where only one man is left standing. Released a mere year or two before ideological street fighting rocked the developed world in 1968 -- from Prague to Tokyo, Berkeley to Beijing -- the film's long discussions between Marat and de Sade seem plucked straight from a smoky Parisian coffee house. Marat's uber-idealism mirrors that of Maoism -- a philosophy that by 1966 was gaining popularity among Europe's intellectuals. De Sade, with his emphasis on spontaneity and individualism, echoes that of the Situationalists whose theories fueled the Paris uprising in 1968. All this aside, Marat / Sade is a stunning film to watch. Cinematographer David Watkin bathes the screen in a gorgeous soft white light. Glenda Jackson as Marat's assassin, Charlotte Corday; Ian Richardson as Marat, and Patrick Magee as de Sade all deliver sterling performances. Riveting, ribald, and revolutionary, Marat / Sade is a hypnotic piece of filmmaking and a brilliant snapshot of the 1960s.