Marquis de Sade (Geoffrey Rush), has been committed to Charenton Asylum for the insane and has spent most of his aging life in prisons and asylums. He's been accused of rape, torture, sodomy, and having his way with both of the sexes, but he refused to go away quietly. His room is filled with luxuries to make him more comfortable, paid by his family and he is allowed to have his quills and writing paper so that he could continue to pen for himself.
Madeline (Kate Winslet), is a chamber maid and laundry girl, who services his quarters. On more than one occasion, she has been inside his room listening to his tales of perversion and passing the stories on to other willing ears. Eventually she helps him smuggle chapters of his latest book, "Justine", to an outside source that helps get the book published.
Coulmier (Joaquin Phoenix), is the priest who's in charge of running the institution. While he tries to bring the word of the Lord into Marquis's life and make him repent, he's constantly refused and seduced. Coulmier knows the type of stories he's capable of telling and does his best to shield the other inmates from it. He allows Marquis to put on many plays involving the other inmates as a way of getting them all involved.
Napoleon Bonaparte gets wind of the publishing of "Justine" and orders all copies to be burned at once. Royer-Collard (Michael Caine), under the rule of the emperor, is invited to a play that the inmates of Charenton Asylum will perform. He brings his new very young bride to the show only to find out the joke is on him, as the actors preform an erotic tale based on an older man taking advantage of a very young girl. Royer-Collard is not pleased and orders Coulmier to immediately put Marquis in his place or he will close the asylum. But no matter what Coulmier does to silence Marquis, it only makes his need grow stronger to get his message out.
2000 - Quills - Broadcast Film Critics Association - Best Supporting Actor
2000 - Quills - National Board of Review - Best Supporting Actor
2000 - Quills - National Board of Review - Special Recognition for Freedom of Expression
2000 - Quills - National Board of Review - Best Picture
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director: Philip Kaufman
Writer: Doug Wright
Producers: Nick Wechsler, Julia Chasman, Peter Kaufman