Is Netflix’s Dangerous Liaisons Based on a True Story or a Book?

Image Credit: Lou Faulon/Netflix

Directed by Rachel Suissa, Netflix’s 2022 French film ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ centers around Tristan Badiola and Vanessa Merteuil, who pretends to be in a relationship to satisfy their Instagram followers. Vanessa challenges Tristan to have sex with Célène, a new student who joined the duo’s high school. Even though Célène is engaged to Pierre, Tristan decides to fulfill the challenge, only to get romantically involved with her.

Originally titled ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses,’ the romantic film progresses through the emotional conflicts Tristan and Célène face as the former moves forward with the secret challenge. If you are intrigued to know about the possible real-life or fictional origins of the film, you are at the right place!

Is Dangerous Liaisons Based on a True Story or a Book?

No, ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ is not based on a true story. The film is loosely based on Pierre Choderlos de Laclos’ 18th-century French novel ‘Les Liaisons Dangereuses.’ Director Rachel Suissa placed the essence of the novel’s narrative and characters in a modern setting to explore the themes of the same with regard to the contemporary era. Laclos’ novel centers around the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, who manipulates and exploits others using seduction. They celebrate their “victories” and boast how good they are at taking advantage of others.

Image Credit: Lou Faulon/Netflix

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 boasts to Vanessa that he will have sex with Célène even if she shuts him off. Vanessa, on the other hand, seduced their high school principal, only to fail to have sex with him, losing a bet to Tristan. Vanessa and Tristan are narcissistic rivals like the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte 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 Vicomte to seduce Cécile de Volanges. Vicomte also falls in love with Madame de Tourvel after seducing her. Célène is seemingly a combination of the novel’s Cécile and Madame de Tourvel. Even though the premises of the novel and Suissa’s film are similar, the director had brought several changes to the film’s narrative. In the novel, Merteuil wants to corrupt Cécile because the latter’s mother plans her marriage with Merteuil’s former lover. However, in the film, Célène’s fiancé Pierre doesn’t know Vanessa.

Even though the novel is fictional, the narrative of the same reflects the reality of 18th-century France. Laclos offers a critical look at the vanity and deprivation of the French nobility through his novel. Suissa explores the deprivation of youth by placing her film’s narrative in modern times. Like Laclos exposes the emptiness of French aristocracy, the director exposes the emptiness of the “Instagram generation,” whose entire existence and relevance are dictated by the fame garnered through social media.

Image Credit: Lou Faulon/Netflix

The fictional film offers a look at how the social media phenomenon affects the lives of contemporary youth. Vanessa considers herself worthy only because she has millions of followers on Instagram. When her followers lower to a handful, she considers it the end of her life. Tristan’s mother is proud of her son because her son is an Instagram celebrity and believes that Célène’s mother must be proud of her only because her follower count is around 250,000. These subtle details explain how the Instagram phenomenon has changed the dynamics of contemporary self-relationship and interrelationships.

‘Dangerous Liaisons’ is significantly rooted in reality because of the social commentary it offers, like Laclos’ novel reflects the time it was written. Suissa’s film succeeds in presenting a dimension of today’s reality through its fiction.

Read More: Where Was Dangerous Liaisons (2022) Filmed?