Dorian Gray (2009) – A Picture of Tainted Perfection
Oscar Wilde had a very clear insight into man’s quest for perfection when he penned the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray.
It is a testament into how some things change and how some don’t – and the novel has been animated yet again with the 2009 British film Dorian Gray.
It stars Ben Barnes, Ben Chaplin and Collin Firth, and is directed by Oliver Parker.
The film is Toby Finlay’s debut screenplay.
Set in the Victorian era, Dorian Gray (Barnes) is a beautiful naive young man who comes to London and is soon caught up in the social vortex and limelight.
He is introduced, at a party by socialite painter Basil Hallward (Ben Chaplin), to a charismatic Lord Henry Wotton (Collin Firth) who soon corrupts him to the carnal pleasures abundant in the city.
Amused by Dorian’s beauty, Basil uses him as a muse and captures the youthful form on canvas. However, as Dorian sees he’s his portrait, he makes a wish to remain youthful and beautiful as in the painting – and he soon gets his wish.
Unlike his likable alter egos in these titles, he is rather dubious and much unlikable in this film. However, toward the end you can’t help but pity him as he sees his own creation come back to haunt him.
The role is a testament to Firth’s acting ability, being able to portray a wide spectrum of characters. His outstanding performance is also an attribute of the other stars of the film like Barnes.
Barnes’ depiction of Dorian gray is delightfully disgusting as we witness a naive, innocent Dorian being transformed into a hideous monster in a mask of beauty.
As time passes and age and corrupt practices take toll on Dorian, his painting captures it all leaving his physical body as beautiful and ageless as first seen. What will happen to him? Will he repent for his sins?
The film captures the essence of the novel quite well. Although there are a few discrepancies, that can be expected when adapting for the big screen, like the disposal of Basil’s corpse.
The film shows us Dorian doing it on his own, whereas the novel has a Mr. Campbell helping him. Lord Wotton does not have a child in the novel nor does he confront Dorian about his (Dorian’s) appearance.
Fortunately, these do not corrupt the moral of the story and actually make this film worthwhile.