At the height of his fame (his plays being much celebrated in London in the 1890's), Oscar Wilde angers the Lord Queensbury by having what is whispered and gossiped as a romantic ... See full summary »
At the height of his fame (his plays being much celebrated in London in the 1890's), Oscar Wilde angers the Lord Queensbury by having what is whispered and gossiped as a romantic relationship with Queensbury's son, twenty years Wilde's junior. When Queensbury slanders Wilde, the arrogant artist decides to take the matter to court, and brings about his own downfall. Written by
Gary Dickerson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ken Hughes film 'The Trials of Oscar Wilde' may at first appear to be one of those cheesy Technicolor costume dramas when in fact it is a gripping and finely acted account of the appalling treatment Oscar Wilde received at the hands of the English justice system at the end of the 19th century.
Peter Finch is superb as the eponymous hero and is totally committed to the role and turns in one of his best performances on screen. The supporting cast is also quite good if more generalized in their characterizations, more a fault of the screenplay than the performers. There is one especially fine supporting performance from Lionel Jeffries as the maniacal Lord Queensbury. Jeffries plays Queensbury as a crazed brute, a type of man we can no longer countenance in these days, though I suspect they are still out there waiting for their chance to pounce on those who they fear and do not understand.
Sonia Dresdel is Lady Wilde, Oscar's dotty mother at the end of her life. It's a small part but is quietly powerful. Other people in Wilde's life, Constance, his wife, and Ada Leverson, his stalwart friend and life-long supporter, are tantalizingly glimpsed but little is revealed of their inner workings. But this isn't a film about them but about the actual trials and much of the film is spent in courtrooms. This might sound boring but it isn't.
James Mason appears in the first trial as the defending witness, for Lord Queensbury, and a more vicious, narrow-minded lawyer could hardly be found, even these days.
The technical credits are competent if nothing special; the music, melodramatic in a soap-opera-ish way, the sets plush and too clean. But somehow the power and tragedy of Wilde's story comes through all the gilding of the script, peppered with some of Wilde's wiser quotes, well-placed, naturally, in the text. There is nothing preachy or moralistic which is a relief, compared to the highly politicized scripts being written since this film was made.
It is interesting to note Nicholas Roeg as the camera operator. He wasn't the cinematographer but I detected a few Roeg-ish touches in a couple of the more meditative scenes.
This is not a film to be sluffed off as old-fashioned simply because there are no sex scenes or vulgar language or violence. The psychic violence suffered by Oscar Wilde was quite sufficient enough and this is a memorable film, worth having in the collection.
7 of 11 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?