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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The movie Dorian Gray is loosely based on Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, or should I say very loosely. In fact, if you blink, you would miss the only segment in the movie that is any part the same as the book. What should be said is that this is a remake of the 1945 movie staring Angela Lansbury and Hurd Hatfield. If you are a fan of Oscar Wilde's then like me you will be disappointed. It seems to explore Dorian's dark side without regards to the true storyline. If you have never read the book then you will probably enjoy this very dark Gothic story. Ben Barnes's portrayal was excellent. He managed to capture Dorian's dark personalty very well. He's a talented young actor who I'm sure we will see more of.
If one is titillated by the film's actually boring visuals - stage
design excepted and congratulated - then I must say one is really duped
into believing that opulent visual description is film-making and that
"debauchery" displayed is really transgressive. It is also a total
misconception of what the book is really about.
So, let's unpack some things. Some people say that the book hinted because the times did not allow full-blown depictions concerning sexual matters. Wrong. Oscar Wilde was quite clever to know that hinting at...those things was actually more effective. It just takes a hint for Victorian prudishness to get heated by its unassumed imaginings. This seems does not go for our times: some get lured into believing that graphic depiction means surmounting a censoring obstacle, while this in truth falls flat. Hitchcock knew that playing with identification, expectation, the frustrations of the imagination was more sexual than shots describing sex. Or Kubrick: some reviews mentioned his "Eyes Wide Shut", and for the sexual orgy scene as something clumsy and laughable. Wrong again. Kubrick rather wanted to show that a luxurious elaborate orgy is actually rather cold and boring. Sex cannot be directly pictured. It is a matter of representation, and, even more, its gaps and discontinuity. That is where we really invest, where our fantasies lie, and tell the truth.
The problem lies not in how one should depict the underlying sinister atmosphere of the novel concerning sexual matters. The lead has no charisma at all: he plays Dorian Gray as Harry Potter. Colin Firth is good in a misconception of his character. As Wilde himself wrote Lord Henry is his reflection "as the world thinks" he is. Colin Firth played the part without any of the delicious sarcasm this would demand. Et cetera et cetera for the rest of the cast. It all is irrelevant.
Irrelevant because this is not the nature of the book: the book has a very peculiar quality that is difficult to pin down. It is a take on the Faustian myth. It is part of the decadent movement. It is Gothic, it is aesthetic. All that it may be, it is something else. It is rather a writers' book for its themes are mimesis, or imitation, and influence.
Oscar Wilde is one of a handful of great thinkers on matters of (literary) influence, and this is the main tension that propels the book onward, contrasting with a rather catholic concept of sin, and bursting with the conceptual inversion of mimetic principles. Lord Henry is the representative of influence, a socialite luring Dorian Gray into paradox. How can one live in such times? he seems to say. Well, by living in paradox. Paradox is here for us, is our natural environment. It would go to lengths, elaborating on nuance, anxiety, and in general the tropes on which the book relies, making it a permanent read beyond its moralistic, or corrupting, surface, but this much is sure: Oscar Wilde knows that influence, as fantasy, could be equally frustrating and liberating. Influence and fantasy mean we are not Adam, first thing in the morning, for better and worse.
Or, in another way, Dorian Gray suffers from an imbalance between himself and his mirror image: the price to be paid for retaining his image in all its harmonious consistency is that the entire horror of its amorphous leftover falls to him. This amorphous leftover is the material correlative to the gaze. For all the good influential paradoxes of the world, not until the very end does he abandon his image. The film did not catch any of that.
The book is also stuffed with lengthy chapters about artistic specimens Dorian Gray impulsively collects, making it something of a period piece. And this is where the film resembles the book in its most unfortunately hilarious.
Although not one iota of this is represented in the film, it strikes quite a note: as in the end of the 19th century prevalent, period preoccupations were presented with, say, an "imperially informed" innocence, so the decadent movement (portions of the book read as takes, critiques and elaborations on Pater and Ruskin, that is why it risks being something of an inside, undramatic joke) displayed a style of journalistic mannerisms and purple prose - so does the film exemplify respective aesthetic misfires: an (M)TV aesthetic, soft-porn libertinism, same old horror in the attic, into an unimaginative pile, thus showing its lackluster take on mimesis. The photography fails to establish a consistently sinful look: it should insist on, for example, that ebony sinister quality of the hall that leads to the attic. Where is the book's opium polish? The ashen look, when the portrait happens to look at the outside world is good, but whatever ambiance it aspires to, tumbles down when we are shown the portrait in the end, which actually looks like a parody of a damned Pirate of the Caribbean.
It's a pity because with intelligent elaboration the daughter-of-Lord-Henry theme could yield to a really good take on a certain kind of neo-Darwinism by introducing tension to the theme symbolic child via influence vs biological child as responsibility; but in the end it ludicrously becomes another take on familial-ties-must-remain-strong. And it so resembles the book's dated, absent from the film, lengthy and inconsequential parts. The film is absent from itself, locked somewhere up in an attic of clichés.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For those of you who have read the Picture of Dorian Gray you'll know
it to be a well written, dark and engaging story with witty social
commentary and a dazzling philosophical edge.
The transformation of the innocent Dorian Gray, the hell raising charisma of Henry Wotten and Wilde's own permeating personalty that reaches out from the text and grabs you with it's charm.
The movie, however, is a farcry from its origins.
Whilst the cinematography does, admittedly, exceed expectation the pacing is awkward, the story dulled and the characters unconvincing. The added plot theme, which I shall avoid explaining for fear of a spoiler, while an interesting concept actually hinders the movie and the frequent scenes of "debauchery" come merely across as boring and, quite frankly, seem more like filler than anything else.
The movie drags after the first half hour and sometimes gives the impression of an overly budgeted pornographic. Colin Firth puts up a better than expected and is surprisingly the highlight in regards of actors for his performance but falls short of the charming devil that is his character.
And finally on a devoted reader's note: Who the hell is Emily Wotton!?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Oscar Wilde once said Lord Henry Wotton was 'what the world thinks me' and Dorian Gray, 'what I would like to be - in other ages, perhaps'. It is just possible the age we live in today - with botox and plastic surgery more than a match for Basil Hallward's painting - would have allowed Wilde to embrace the Dorian Gray within him. Certainly it has given director Oliver Parker the chance to explore parts of Wilde's classic 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' that Victorian society would simply not have allowed to be seen. So we have Ben Barnes' Dorian visiting gin palaces and whore houses in a bleak London which seems to welcome his pact with the devil for eternal life. For those unaware of Wilde's story, Gray is a beautiful, but naive, young aristocrat who becomes the muse of the probably homosexual (overtly in the film) Hallward. But twisted by the hedonistic wit of Lord Henry, Gray becomes jealous that the painting will keep its youth, while he must lose his.He makes a wish that the picture will become old, while he remains forever young - in return for his soul. While Parker's film makes real many of the inferences of Wilde's novel it also pushes the boat out further; celebrating Sibyl Vane as Ophelia, adding elements of horror to the plot with a moving, gurning picture and even incorporating a whole new chapter of Gray's life to the plot. The film certainly maintains the Gothic horror of Wilde's novel, and even some of its wit, but it is doubtful whether it is as thought provoking or intelligent. Perhaps, one might say, more cosmetic surgery than real substance.
WOW I cannot believe the rating on this film at IMDb - it's lower than
I expected it to be. And several negative comments about it too yet I
do find others that enjoyed the movie as much as I did, giving it good
I personally liked this Gothic version of Dorian Gray - well acted out and the scenery and sets are beautiful! As far as the story goes - I very much liked it. I realize there are changes from the book which is nothing unusual. So many films are different from the book and yes sometimes criticized harshly for the changes OR they are praised for it.
Ben Barnes is a nice looking man in my opinion. That is just a matter of personal preference as to if you think someone is nice looking or not. Not everyone will agree on who is the perfect man to play Dorian Gray. So those that review this movie and bash Ben Barnes' looks should think twice - and remember that everyone will not agree on who is "good looking" enough for this role! The truth is NO ONE is.... NO ONE is so good looking and charming that they can seduce almost anyone -- that's the fantasy and fiction aspect of this fictional story!
The movie is very good and should not be dismiss as bad because some people didn't like the film. Simply watch it an judge for yourselves.
When innocent Dorian Gray arrives in London, he is exactly like his
newly painted portrait young and beautiful. He is soon introduced to
the devilish Lord Henry Wotton. The lord shows him the darker sides of
London, a life full of sin, drugs and sex. Dorian can have it all, as
long as he stay the way he's captured in his portrait. He is desperate
to keep that life, so desperate that he is willing to give his soul.
However, keeping his secret is harder than Dorian originally thought,
and his actions become more and more evil, as he slips deeper into this
sinful life. Everything changes when he falls in love, but is it too
late? Or can he still save his soul? Dorian Gray is a dark, sexy and
thrilling story. It is sarcastic, shocking, morbid, and mysterious,
everything you would want from a thriller adventure. Barnes gives his
best performance yet, and with Firths brilliant acting they make a
marvellous team. The set and costumes are authentic and give you the
sense you're in the 19th century. However some of the supporting roles
are bad actors and the blood used in this film looks like juice, not
convincing at all! But the storyline is good, and it will have you
interested from beginning to the end! The film is based on the book
"The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde.
for more reviews visit http://malinlystad.blogspot.com
Some critics seem to bash on this flick comparing to the novel. I
personally thought it was a pretty decent movie and had enough
substance to carry the movie with some good dark atmosphere going for
it. The moral of the novel basically came down to the difference
between pleasures and happiness. And it did a pretty good job of
visually showing that in this movie. Ben Barnes or Prince Caspian who I
think Hollywood is trying to sale as the next Johnny Depp is alright as
Dorian Gray. He needs more better acting chops but he fit the look and
change in character well. Colin Firth in this plays Henry Wotton, who
claims the only thing in life worth having is youth and beauty. And is
basically the tempter who drives Dorian Gray into madness. The novel
also had to do with the inner nature of men and how a lot of people
tend to wear masks because they are too afraid to show who we really
are. In this case the ugliness of Dorian Gray begins to show in a
painting drawn of him. Even if he stays forever young and handsome in
his outward appearance he is rotting in the inside. Which I thought was
pretty unique when it came to the novel, since in today's society. The
outward appearance means more in the human eyes than what is
underneath. Again if you constantly compare this flick to the book you
will probably be disappointed. But if you look at this flick as just a
adaptation that focuses a lot on the visuals but also has some
substance to back it up. You just might enjoy it. But it's not a
faithful adaptation from the novel.
As an aficionado of Oscar Wilde, I approach each new adaptation of his
work openly but cynically. I encountered a pleasant surprise when
watching this film. Although it strays from the novel,as most versions
do, the changes worked.The less veiled relationship between Dorian and
Basil played nicely, as did the shades of humanity given to Lord Henry
in the final half hour of the film.
I wasn't sure at first of the addition of a daughter for lord Henry worked or not. (The addition of a niece for Basil in the MGM film didn't hurt the story any but also added nothing), but in Te end having Lord Henry's open-minded and rebellious daughter fall for Dorina creates an extra layer of moral dilemma.
The film is captured brilliantly in it design and cinematography. the shadows and color greatly enhance the mood.
The performances are mostly excellent.Colin Firth gives a well rounded portrayal of Lord Henry, equally cynical,charming and careless..as mentioned before..Firth is allowed to show a more human side of Henry as well, a jealousy and a realization of his own hypocrisy, something denied the other screen Henrys. Firth is in my opinion one of the greatest and most versatile actors working today.
Ben Barnes gives an electric performance as Dorian,with facial features resembling Hurd Hatfield, the Dorina of the MGM version, his young aesthete is more dangerous and even more selfish that other portrayers of the role. equally, Ben Chaplin is a real and tortured Basil Hallward. Fiona Shaw's AUnt Agatha adds class and charm to the piece as does Emilia Fox's all too brief portrayal of Lady Wooten.
This is an under rated film, that taken as a whole is a wonderful experience.
I was originally put off from seeing this film by the vast number of
extremely negative reviews on here. I haven't read the original book
but most people seem to believe the film to be a good adaptation. It
would seem that many of the negative reviewers have missed the point of
the film as it is not like anything else I have seen and was probably
not what they were expecting. But I liked this entirely new idea and it
makes a nice change to see something different.
The story is certainly gripping showing a shielded innocent man, influenced by his new friend into detaching his sole, descend to a life of debauchery, becoming increasingly corrupt and living out every impulse of a young person whilst being unable to scar or age himself. The rest you can gain from other reviews as I am weary of accidentally giving a spoiler.
One thing that makes this film prosper where it otherwise could have failed is in the acting. Ben Barnes plays the part of Dorian spectacularly, showing his character develop as he succumbs to a life of sin. Colin Firth (who I am not usually a fan of) takes the role of the friend who influences Dorian becoming what he is in the film but who also seems to live his life through Dorian, becoming almost obsessed with his life.
I would give this higher than a 7 but it is not generally my type of film but I was still thoroughly impressed by it and would recommend watching it if you have a taste for deep films and would like to see something almost entirely fresh.
I can see that a lot of people who don't have a problem with this movie
never actually read the novel. That's a shame. Honestly though, I'm not
sure I could have liked this movie even if I hadn't read the original
work. The horrible effects and unnecessary and disturbing sex scenes
were enough to ruin the movie all on their own.
I mean seriously, I like to see nudity as much as the next person, but this is an Oscar Wilde novel... I didn't see this movie about an intellectual story from the 1800's and hope to see explosions and boobs and pornographic sex scenes. If I wanted that I would turn on a movie with Jason Statham.
All in all though, I disagree with all the comments that Oscar Wilde would be rolling in his grave; I don't think he would. This seems right up the alley of his cynical, satiric take on society. He wrote a story that was beautiful and inspired great thought, a story that has become a true classic, and they made a Hollywood-ized movie from it that appeals to the masses more than it appeals to true Oscar Wilde fans. That is irony.
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