28/11/2009

THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY - FROM THE BOOK TO THE MOVIE (2009)


THE BOOK
The Picture of Dorian Gray was aesthete Oscar Wilde’s only novel, although he wrote a number of poems and children’s stories before it was published in 1890 (in Lippincott’s Magazine). Like much of his work and life, the Gothic novel Dorian Gray was controversial. In his preface to the book he famously wrote that, "There is no such thing as a moral or immoral book. Books are well written or badly written. That is all". The novel is a brilliant portrait of vanity and depravity tinged with sadness. The picture of the title is a splendid work painted by Basil Hallward of the orphaned boy Dorian Gray who is the heir to a great fortune. Lord Henry and Hallward discuss the boy and the remarkable painting. Dorian in front of his own portrait sees his beauty for the first time and  declares he would give his soul if he were always to be young and the painting instead would grow old. As the story pans out, Dorian leaves his fiancée - the actress Sibyl Vane - because through a single bad performance he claims that she has ‘killed’ his love. She kills herself with poison and Dorian is unaffected. So begins the tale of the boy’s descent into low society in London while still giving dinners and musicals for high society. He is inspired by two things: the book Lord Henry sends him that seems to predict his own life in dissecting every virtue and every sin from the past; and secondly the picture of himself which grows steadily older and more vicious looking compared to his own mirror image which remains young. Fanatical about the portrait, he is driven to murder and deception. As others are drawn into this web of evil Dorian himself longs to return to innocence but his method is horrific and tragic.


PART II - BACK FROM THE MOVIES


So, at last, I succeded in watching this movie! It was not that easy. For example, we had to drive for 72 km, to Rome, to see it. Then, after queueing for quite a bit, (did all those people really want to see that film?) we were said there was only a seat left and we were TWO (my husband and I!). We drove to another cinema fearing it was too late, and , finally, we managed to find  two comfortable seats. First of all, I didn't expect such crowded theatres. Usually when I go to the cinema to see period movies I'm interested in , I comfortably sit among very few people. Moreover, among that  noisy (too noisy)  crowd, there were many teenagers... I really don't know if it  happens also in other parts of the world but Italian young people can be rather wild mannered in public places. Briefly, they thought they were at the stadium watching a match: they commented loudly, they shout at the actors on the screen, they clapped and ... laughed were there was nothing to laugh at!
Apart from all the unpleasant happenings before and during the film , I was rather interested and not at all bored while watching ... I was so busy discovering the (SO MANY!) differences between the novel and the movie! I 'm not going to  list them:  they are numerous, so numerous,  I'd rather say: are they sure they read the same novel I read before writing the script?
I know they needed to add blood, sex, action , creepy devices,  to get the modern watcher involved but there should be a limit! The story has been completely transformed, even its key ideas.
Did I like the movie? Not so much. Would I have liked it if I hadn't known the book so well? Neither. Not the sort of movie I'd drive to Rome and bear a crowd of noisy teenagers!


Do you want me to find at least one thing to save? I'll give you two: Colin Firth and Dorian's ... clothes!






13 comments:

Ruth said...

Colin Firth and Ben Barnes do look pretty fantastically costumed. I love me some Oscar Wilde and all but I'm not sure I'll dish out to see this in the theater - thanks so much for your perspective! The movie is definitely on my radar...just not sure how high it is on the list of priorities...of course, it may never even open in my area. *sigh*

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Ruth
Hi Ruth! Actually I mean the only two things I'd save from my disappointment about this movie are Colin Firth in general, his acting and everything else, and of Dorian (Ben Barnes) only his beautiful end of 19th century costumes! Thanks for commenting.

Avalon said...

I am disappointed to hear this.....I was looking forward to this movie and was hoping it would be good. It is not airing in the States so I have to wait for the DVD. But I will be honest, I mainly desire to see this movie for Ben Barnes....I read the book back in college and although I enjoyed the book, I did not like it so much that I ever bothered to watch the old Dorian Gray.

I prefer movies to follow the outline of the novel but I do like some surprises meaning I do not want to know everything before it happens. Some movies irk me when they are totally off base from the novel but I can still enjoy the movie. The 1992 version of The Last of the Mohicans is completely different from James Fenimore Cooper's novel but the change Michael Mann thrust upon us won me over. I fell in love with the movie and prefer it over the book. (I think it was the captivating romance between Uncas and Alice that did it for me).

However I have a long list of films that I dislike because they did not follow the outline of the novel or historical accuracy.

I am sorry you had such an unmelodious experience at the theater. I can relate so I try to go during the day during the week to avoid such crowds. Although I am not a super colossal fan of the Twilight series, having never bothered to read the series, I do want to see New Moon but I am allowing ample time for the teenagers to view it before I even try to visit the theater.

Your review is like many and I hate to say it but after I watch the movie, I will probably share your opinion. I loathe anticipating a release only to be let down. Bloody violence disgusts me so maybe Ben’s adorable face will keep me from choking up.

Judy said...

Hi Maria, must say I totally agree with you about this movie - I found it a complete disappointment except for Colin Firth, who seemed almost as if he was in a different film from everyone else! Now that you mention it, Ben Barnes' costumes were pretty nice, but unfortunately the same can't be said for his acting in this role. However what I really loathed were the special effects - the portrait is shocking enough as a portrait without loads of CGI!

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Avalon
I had read many negative reviews before going but I wanted to see this film and decide what to think by myself. I'm sorry but it was really disappointing, not only because it was loosely based on the book - to be kind - but because they attempted to satisfy the audience with sex scenes and bloody scenes and gratuitous vulgar details. If there was something Wilde would reject it was vulgarity. He was so witty he would have accepted any intelligent attempt to modernize his novel, but triviality or vulgarity was something he definitely wouldn't have accepted!
P.S. I'm sorry for "your" Ben Barnes, he is a delicious handsome young man but not a convincing Dorian, I'm afraid.

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@udy
That's exactly what I meant answering Avalon: those trivial special effects, those useless bloody macabre details! They tried to meet contemporary audience's requirements in horror movies. And Ben Barnes was really a more convincing Prince Caspian than a Dorian.

JaneGS said...

>Colin Firth and Dorian's ... clothes!

LOL

As you know, I found the book not brilliant, and I'm not surprised that they sexed it up. Wilde didn't really specify the depravity that Dorian fell to, but since I have a pretty good imagination I can only assume the screenwriters/director did too.

Sorry it turned out to be a dud for all you went through. That's why I watch movies at home! :)

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@JaneGS
I can assure you I usually do the same. I love watching my DVDs in the silence and solitude of my home but, you know, it is not always like that, going to the cinema, I mean. Anyhow, I had a different Saturday evening and I could wrote an "unusual" post. Not that bad! :-)

Avalon said...

I really dislike the vulgarity and gore because I have a house full of children (up to the age of 14) that want to see this film because of Ben.

Elvira said...

After reading your post, I think I will not see it. Or maybe I will, sitting comfortably at home when it is available in video shops.

Luciana said...

Oh no! I thought it could be at least OK, but for your review I decided I will not see it at all! Of course CF is sure to do a great thing, so at least you didn't ruin the hole evening. I hate teenagers screaming wherever they are. Here in Brazil there are too much teenagers in my opinion. An too much queues too! But with 190 million of people, 10 of them in my city I couldn't expect other thing... But teenagers in queues have THE power of irritating me! They went to see it probably because Ben Barnes was on it, you know teenagers see The Chronicles of Narnia with him and the rest you know! Have a nice week!

Nat at RA FanBlog said...

This is one I'd probably see on DVD, but not want to shell out the money for a theatre ticket. I haven't read the book, so maybe I won't be disappointed? However, after reading your review, it sounds like I may not find it to my liking either. Do you think it's worth seeing once or just a waste of time?

MARIA GRAZIA said...

@Nat
I don't think my disappointment is only due to the fact I know the novel very well. I actually think that I wouldn't have liked the movie for its triviality and low quality in general. Watch it at least once, a DVD maybe enough. It is correct to form your own opinion after watching it. Thanks for commenting.