A tale of vanity, the worship of youth and the wages of sin

2010-09-03 16:11

This is director Oliver Parker’s third ­adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s work. He previously put his plays An Ideal ­Husband and The Importance of Being Ernest on screen, both delightful, frothy period romcoms with biting wit.

Film: Dorian Gray ( Ster Kinekor)
Director: Oliver Parker
Featuring: Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Emilia Fox, Ben Chaplin and Rebecca Hall
Rating: 7/10

With The Picture of Dorian Gray, however, the subject matter is much darker and the content denser.

There have been many adaptations, and while this one might not be the definitive one, it’s well executed and Ben Barnes is an excellent physical choice to play Dorian.

The classic gothic horror, Wilde’s only novel, is set during Victorian times and Barnes has an old-world look about him, yet he is timelessly beautiful too.

The story is a cautionary tale about vanity, the worship of youth and the wages of sin.

It is also one of the creepiest stories I have ever read.

Gray arrives in London a naïve young man, heir to a great fortune – a combination sure to end badly.

A painter, Basil Hallward (Ben Chaplin), becomes infatuated with Dorian and paints an exquisite portrait of him.

The painting makes both the artist and the subject the talk of the town, and so begins the ruin of Dorian.
 
When he meets the cynical, reckless Lord Harry Wotton (Colin Firth) he is in turn infatuated and, in a moment of mirth, says he’d sell his soul to have the portrait age instead of his body.
 
He doesn’t realise just how deeply indebted he is in this Faustian contract until the portrait starts to show him the wounds on his soul that his lifestyle has inflicted.

Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies of this story is watching how a corrupting influence, in the form of Lord Harry, and the absence of consequences creates a monster.

Dorian may look like Adonis, but as he is sucked deeper and deeper into a hedonistic world ruled by his own ego, he rots from the inside out.

This is a faithful adaptation of the novel, but it isn’t nearly as scary as it should be and that is probably because of Barnes’ inexperience.
 
Previously he starred in Stardust and as Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia, so this is a far meatier part for him.

He lacks the experience to be completely believable as a deeply venal, self-obsessed young man who is also irresistibly attractive to all who meet him.


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