Eternal Portrait of Vanity and Decay

Oscar Wilde’s novella The Picture of Dorian Gray published in the summer of 1890 marked the age of aestheticism in the declining years of Victorian England. Wilde at the time of publication wrote `To become a work of art is the object of living’.

A Decaying Image but an Eternal work of Art

In Dorian Gray, the 2009 film version, Gray a wealthy aristocrat sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for eternal youth.  As the young Dorian drifts languidly into a world of debauchery, opium dens, orgies and uncompromising excess, the portrait first painted of him as a beautiful young lord soon reflects the ugliness of Dorian’s actions whilst the character retains his flawless beauty. There is an almost vampire quality to Dorian’s sordid adventures as he slowly but surely delves deeper into the darker spheres of human action from seduction, temptation and ultimately to murder, manipulating all those around him with the exception of his primary influencer Lord Henry Wotton, a brilliant performance by Colin Firth who shines in this part.

Ben Barnes who shot to fame in Prince Caspian and the 2009 film adaptation of Noel Cowards play Easy Virtue, struggles with a character as complex and compelling as Dorian Gray. Barnes portrayal whilst beautiful is bordering on flaccid and his inability to capture the fall from innocence of Dorian Gray is only illuminated by the razor sharp supporting performances of Firth and the remarkably brilliant Rebecca Hall of Vicky Christina Barcelona fame, illustrating that as an actor, Barnes is beautiful to look at but does not have the requisite skill and theatrical maturity to master a complex character like Dorian Gray.

Whilst Oliver Parker’s Victorian Gothic version of  Dorian Gray is fascinating and at times horrific to watch, it falls short as a brilliant work of cinema simply because there has never been a successful screen adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray as the novella is as much about literary symbolism, an ironic portrayal of aestheticism as a means in itself, as it is about decrepitude and vicious narcissistic menace, even resulting in seducing the artist Basil Hallward who paints Dorian’s portrait, a wonderfully brief but vivid performance by Ben Chaplin. Jude Law who starred as the vain and spoilt Lord Alfred Douglas in the film version of Oscar Wilde’s later life, Wilde opposite a fantastic Stephen Fry in the title role, would have been a more suitable Dorian Gray as his skill as an actor would have captured the weaknesses of a character entirely devoted to his own vanity and basking in the fascination that youth, wealth and beauty can cast on an infinitely corruptible society.

Oscar Wilde – either the wallpaper or myself have to go!

Think of Jude Law’s Oscar nominated performance in Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr Ripley. Law would have been perfect in Dorian Gray.

For literary enthusiasts Dorian Gray is a film worth watching as a point of discussion on how life imitates art and eventually as with all lovers of aestheticism, art survives above life for art’s sake, far out living those corpses decaying in a murky grave. Images outlive the subject and the portrait however beautiful will remain eternal. For vanity and debauchery, as the Duke of Rochester so magnificently portrayed by Johnny Depp in The Libertine shows, those that yield to an abundance of temptation ultimately perish by the pursuit of their own desires.

As for what Oscar Wilde would comment on a 21st century Dorian Gray, words far exceed those merits of a celluloid image.

Comments are closed.

Film Directors & Festivals
Reviews and Awards
Review Calender
October 2010
M T W T F S S
« Sep   Nov »
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031
  • Catherine Oxenberg on Dramatizing Her Life Story for ‘Escaping the NXIVM Cult’
    For seven years, Catherine Oxenberg says, individuals within the NXIVM organization groomed her daughter India and made her believe in their group as one of empowerment, despite many of their practices being abusive towards women. Now, those years have been condensed into a 90-minute dramatization of Oxenberg’s story for Lifetime, entitled “Escaping the NXIVM Cult: […]
    Danielle Turchiano
  • ‘House Hunters’ Star Suzanne Whang Dies at 56
    Suzanne Whang, best known for her nine-year hosting and narrating stint on HGTV’s “House Hunters,” died Tuesday after a 13-year battle with breast cancer. She was 56. Whang’s partner Jeff Vezain shared the news on Facebook Thursday, writing that “she confronted cancer with courage, humor, determination and optimism.” “She was immensely encouraged by the love […]
    atingley4
  • ‘Aladdin’ Star Mena Massoud Calls for a Broader Diversity of Storytelling in Movies and TV
    The star of “Aladdin,” Egyptian-Canadian actor Mena Massoud, called for a greater diversity of storytelling in movies and television when he spoke at the glamorous opening ceremony Thursday of the 3rd edition of Egypt’s El Gouna Film Festival. Massoud, whose credits include Amazon’s “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan” and Hulu’s “Reprisal,” lauded “the power of art” […]
    Leo Barraclough
  • Ronen Rubinstein, Sierra McClain Join ‘9-1-1’ Spinoff at Fox
    Fox’s “9-1-1” spinoff has added two more series regulars to its cast. Ronen Rubinstein and Sierra McClain have joined previously announced cast members Rob Lowe, Liv Tyler and Jim Parrack, Variety has learned. The new entry to the budding “9-1-1” franchise follows a sophisticated New York fireman (Lowe) who, along with his son, re-locates to Austin, […]
    Will Thorne
  • How ‘Mr. Robot’ Launched Its Creator and Star to New Heights
    “Mr. Robot” may be synonymous with helping USA redefine its long-touted “blue-skies” strategy into its current “we the bold” motto, but the series was also career-defining for those involved — particularly creator Sam Esmail and actor Rami Malek. Malek’s resume included a few key credits including HBO’s “The Pacific” and “Short Term 12” before taking […]
    Danielle Turchiano
  • Read More
    Different providers offer different cell phones, so take a look at the options from each provider to choose the right one for you. You may also want to look into any promotions that the providers have to offer, such as free cell phones in exchange for signing a contract. Tags: 2gmhass90