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The Libertine

MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality including dialogue, violence and language
not reviewed
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Biography, Foreign, Comedy, Drama, Adaptation
2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
November 25, 2005 (LA/NY)
January 13, 2006 (limited)
March 10, 2006 (wide)
Copyright, Miramax Films, The Weinstein Company
Copyright, Miramax Films, The Weinstein Company
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Miramax Films, The Weinstein Company

Fall of man to sin

What is sin?

Every time you buy a movie ticket or rent a video you are casting a vote telling Hollywood “That’s what I want.” Why does Hollywood continue to promote immoral programming? Are YOU part of the problem?

Why is the world the way it is? (filled with oppression, suffering, death and cruelty?) If God is all-knowing, all-powerful and loving, would he really create a world like this? Answer

How can I deal with temptations? Answer

Should I save sex for marriage? Answer

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.

Do Not Enter

Featuring: John Malkovich, Johnny Depp, Samantha Morton, Rosamund Pike, Tom Hollander
Director: Laurence Dunmore, Laurence Dunmore
Producer: Chase Bailey, Ralph Kamp, Louise Goodsill
Distributor: Miramax Films, The Weinstein Company

“He didn’t resist temptation. He pursued it.”

Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Story of the Earl of Rochester, friend and of Charles II and a Restoration era pornographer and poet. He was an anti-monarchist Royalist and an atheist who converted to Christianity. The story is about how the Earl’s cynicism is thrown for a loop when he falls in love with a struggling young actress.

Johnny Depp stars in “The Libertine” as the scandalously decadent John Wilmot, the second Earl of Rochester. The film follows the Earl’s adventures in London, from his passionate romance with a young actress, Elizabeth Barry (Samantha Morton), to the writing of a scurrilous play which blisteringly and bawdily lampoons the very monarch who commissioned it, Charles II (John Malkovich), leading to the Earl’s banishment and eventual downfall.”

Viewer Comments
Negative—While it is true that Depp delivers an incredible performance in this film, “The Libertine” still managed to deliver a very painful 2 hours of viewing. The film’s intensely repulsive nature, with it’s violently crude dialogue, and raunchy visual content left me looking forward to it’s end. “The Libertine” provides a very long disturbing entourage of perversion that leaves the viewer with little more than a sickening feeling to walk away with. I could never recommend this movie to anyone, and, in fact, I strongly suggest that everyone should avoid this vile film.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 4
—Paul, age 18
Negative—“The Libertine” is a film based loosely upon the life of John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester, England who lived during the 17th century. Wilmot (played by Johnny Depp) was a notorious cynic and philander who divulged himself fully with reckless abandonment in wine, women and words. On the big screen, Wilmot is vividly depicted as a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God. Depp sinks his teeth into this pathetic and much maligned character, nailing down yet another fine performance into his already much celebrated acting career. However, I found the narrative of the story lacking and the film’s abrupt editing seemed to resemble a hatchet job.

The prologue begins with Wilmot staring into the camera while arrogantly reminiscing over his ill-spent life, warning and taunting the audience “You will not like me” and “I don’t want you to like me.” The room is dark and foreboding, and except for Wilmot’s rants, eerily silent. Thus the stage is set to reflect upon the life of “Johnny” Wilmot, the pornographer and cynic of the golden age. According to the movie as well as the annals of history, Wilmot defiantly chose a life of sin. In the first act, Wilmot is sternly encouraged by his mother to “serve God” which produces a sly smirk upon his face. The rest of the movie discloses how Wilmot disregards his mother’s warning and the horrible consequences that befall upon this talented but misguided man.

The film depicts 17th century England as a dreary world mired in mud, where rats ran rampant and dogs defecated within the palace of the king. Apparently the hearts of men were much more corrupt and perverse. There are numerous scenes of fornication involving masturbation, fellatio, orgies, homosexuality and an obscene play written by the Earl of Rochester showcasing oversized dildos and chariots resembling male gentiles. Bare-breasted women and vulgar dialogue abound throughout the entirety of this movie. The “F” bomb is frequently dropped as well as other colorful adjectives.

The Earl of Rochester is a thorn in the side for England’s King Charles II (John Malkovich). Wilmot insults Charles on numerous occasions either to the king’s face or through his play. In the eyes of John Wilmot, nothing is sacred, and everything is fair game to ridicule.

Wilmot is unfaithful to his beloved wife, squandering money and ill spent energy with prostitutes and whores. He carries on an affair with a struggling stage actress whom he elevates to stardom. Wilmot uses his wit and written words to afflict pain and despair on his enemies as well as on those who love him. Wilmot even has the uncanny ability to predict the tragic outcome for those who choose to seek his companionship.

It is not until Wilmot is horribly disfigured from venereal disease and only a shadow of the man he once was that he heeds the words of his mother and wife and accepts God, albeit on his deathbed. Wilmot becomes intrigued with Isaiah 53, and as he states it, becomes a “deathbed convert.” The final act shows Wilmot coming to the aid of King Charles, although for selfish reasons.

The epilogue reveals Wilmot once again staring into the camera addressing the audience one last time, commenting on his wanton life and asking the question, “Do you like me now.” He repeats this line over and over again until the screen fades to black and the ending credits roll. It is these last words, which seem to suggest that the producers of this film may have felt that Wilmot’s conversion to Christianity may have been a ruse, a well thought out façade to save his reputation and secure his legacy with mankind.

I suppose whether or not Johnny Wilmot truly remained a cynic up until his death will remain a mystery for now. The truth is that only God and Mr. Wilmot know for certain the whereabouts of the soul of the man who lived life so madly and was struck down with venereal disease in the days of his youth, dieing prematurely at the early age of thirty-three years old. One thing the Christian audience should be aware of is this; Mr. Wilmot is no longer a cynic in the afterlife.

We Italians have a saying for such men as John Wilmot: “wasted talent.” Nonetheless, we of the faith fully understand that regardless of the life led, true repentance and devotion towards the Lord of Lords and King of Kings will cover up a multitude of sin, thus securing a place in heaven even for the most prominent of sinners. Regarding Mr. John Wilmot, I hope his conversation was sincere.

For those Christians deciding on whether or not to view this movie, may I be so bold as to offer you this gentle but sincere warning, “You will not like it.”
My Ratings: Very Offensive / 2
—Albert Anthony Buonanno III, age 49
Negative—I just saw the movie last night and I am sorry to say it was a waste of my time and money to have seen it. I do admitt that Johnny Depp made a really good performance in it but the movie and the way it dragged was horrible. If you wish to see it be prepared to pay close attention to the diologue because you can easily get lost. There are some scenes that are very confusing and hard to follow. There are other scenes that didn’t even need to be in the movie such as an orgy scene. The synopsis was that he was an athiest turned Christian, but in the end that wasn’t very clear at all. The moral of the movie that I got out of it was pursuing your sinful desires will ultimately lead you away from God to die in agony but it was still unclear until I had to really really think about it. Do not see this movie.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Daniel Duenez, age 23
Negative—I’m a huge fan of Johnny Depp, so I decided to rent this movie to see his “brilliant performance.” I barely made it through the entire thing! I kept hoping that something good or right would come out of it, but I was severely disappointed. I cringed for nearly the entire film. I couldn’t get it back to the rental place fast enough! The scenes are explicit. If ever there was a general movie that deserved a harsher rating, it’s “Libertine”! I couldn’t see any “brilliant performances,” because I could barely tolerate each and every scene! Completely disappointed in every way. I could never and would never recommend this movie to anyone.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 3
—Alicia, age 35
Positive—I am surprised not more of those who saw this film were not moved by this rebellious, angry, young man bent on self-destruction, and how he recklessly lived for his own hedonistic pursuits. Here is a man greatly blessed with a wonderfully loving wife and a Christian heritage of a God fearing mother. Despite his priveledged background and incredible intellectual ability, he uses his God-given resources in the pursuit of the vilest and most immoral ambitions. He has been given a place of authority as a advisor/friend to the king, and he squanders that, also. This man was driven by his illicit passions and had let them control his life. The scene where his wife refuses to give him a drink of wine and later is embracing him like a lost child is extremely moving and shows the unconditional love of God (inspite of his appearance or actions). This movie should sound a clarion call to anyone pursuing wordly desires; it all comes to an end sometime and then death. Elements of restitutuion, love, forgiveness, forbearance, doing what’s right for another, discipling, repentance as well as all the obvious negative qualities are also present. It’s interesting that he parallels his life to Jesus at the end. Even if there is a false Messiah theme in his words, this is a large shift in his thinking from the beginning. I rated this film positive because I believe it is a true picture of the human heart without all the prudish righteousness most Christians espouse. The material is highly offensive, as Christians, but then again, so is any sin to a Holy and Righteous God. In addition, the sexual scenes in the movie are not any more perverse than what is done in today’s worldly culture and accepted as appropriate behavior. I would recommend this film wholeheartedly to anyone who says that man is intrinsically good. This movie should be seen by all Christians, for to some degree or another, this is the way many of us respond to God’s love.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive / 5
—Angel Cobo, age 49
Movie Critics
…so over-the-top that it’s just not that entertaining…
—E! Online
…a torturous mess …a totally horrid film…
—Entertainment Weekly, Owen Gleiberman
…'Libertine' squanders two hours …becomes more of a gothic horror movie than an arresting biographical drama…
—New York Daily News, Jack Mathews