Marat/Sade [1967]

In 1964, German playwright Peter Weiss wowed the international theater scene with his Berlin production of The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade. An instant sensation, the play caught the attention of iconic theater director Peter Brook, whose own stage production captivated audiences in New York the next year. Brook then filmed his production in 1966, and the resulting movie, Marat/Sade, stands as one of the best-loved screen adaptations of a play, by both critics and theater fans alike. (The 1996 film Quills is a good example of the story's lasting resonance.) As can be surmised by the play's original title, the action focuses on the Marquis de Sade (Patrick Magee) circa 1808, who, while imprisoned at Charenton Asylum, writes and directs a play starring his fellow inmates. Dramatizing the final hours of French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat (Ian Richardson) before he was killed by Charlotte Corday (Glenda Jackson, in one of the defining moments of her career), de Sade offers the play as an entertaining whim for the tiny audience of asylum director Coulmier (Clifford Rose) and his family. Utilizing the "theatre of cruelty" theory of avant-garde pioneer Antonin Artaud--once an asylum inmate himself--Brook's presentation of Marat/Sade confronts with jagged language, sounds and visuals, in an attempt to shock the movie audience into dissatisfaction and action against the status quo, mirroring the way de Sade's play within the film stirs the asylum inmates to high dudgeon and revolution. --Heather Campbell

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