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Forever young. Forever cursed. Based on the acclaimed novel by Oscar Wilde. Upon arriving in London, the young and powerful Dorian Gray (Ben Barnes) becomes drawn into a world of debauchery and decadence by Lord Henry Wotton (Colin Firth). Desperate to preserve the beauty captured in his exquisite portrait, Dorian trades his soul for eternal youth – leading him down a path of wickedness and murder in order to protect his horrifying secret.
Multiple Behind-the-scenes featurettes, “Making-of Dorian Gray” (including cast and crew interviews)
Deleted scenes, blooper reel, photo gallery
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I am writing this review AS an Oscar Wilde fan. I have read The Picture of Dorian Gray twice and I have read The Canterville Ghost twice.
I am going to tell you right now that these negative reviews that claim that this film is an insult to Oscar Wilde are WRONG! It's as if people who know very little about the works of Oscar Wilde are following a trend.
Those that say this would make Oscar Wilde roll over in his grave clearly have never seen the dreadful mid 2000s version of The Picture of Dorian Gray that re-sets it in the 1960s with a female Basil with horrendous acting. And they clearly have never seen the 1940s version of The Canterville Ghost that turned the entire story into World War 2 propaganda about a solider having to prove himself against a Nazi.
I will admit that this not a word for word faithful adaptation of the novel The Picture of Dorian Gray however it is very true to the heart of the novel, the meaning and purpose. The character portrayals are perfect and accurate. All changes are purely superficial. I know Ben Barnes as Dorian does not resemble the character of the novel however he does resemble Oscar Wilde himself and since Oscar Wilde saw himself in Dorian I felt this was a brilliant use of visual symbolism in Wilde's own relationship with Dorian Gray.
I know that some people have complained about the adding of the character Emily Wotton, whom does not exist in the novel. What people fail to remember is that nearly all film versions of The Picture of Dorian Gray have this 'redeemer' character. In the 1940s movie her name was Gladys. In the 1973 version of The Picture of Dorian Gray her name was Beatrice. In most versions she's Basil's niece or daughter but in this version she was Lord Henry's daughter.
What many don't know is that this character does exist in the novel. She's mentioned briefly near the end as a country girl named Hetty. Her part in the novel isn't as big as in the film adaptations but she does still exist and she works to add sympathy to Dorian's character.
You cannot see the inner workings of Dorian's mind in a physical medium like films or plays as you do with the novel so you you need a new way to see his moral struggle. And this is done through the presence of Emily.
Collin Firth was incredible as Lord Henry. That was the best portrayal of Lord Henry since George Sanders. When he says 'People die by common sense.' he fully became Lord Henry for me. Most people treat the role too academically and sound like they're boredly reading from a book. Collin Firth however really got it. He really understood the character. This version of The Picture of Dorian Gray has more of Oscar Wilde's witty epigrams than any other version before it. The only line missing that I wish was in here is Lord Henry gives Dorian a cigarette case. In this one it's just inscribed with Dorian's name. In the novel it reads 'The World has changed because you are made of ivory and gold. The curve of your lips re-write history.'
The only character of the film I did not like was this version of Sibyl Vane. In this version Dorian seduces her into sleeping with him before marriage (as he does in the original film with Angela Lansbury in the role).
When Sibyl starts talking about having a family Dorian argues that it is too soon, much thanks to the ideas planted in his head by Lord Henry. When this Sibyl kills herself it gets revealed that she was with child. This takes away from her sympathy. It's true having a child out of wed lock was frowned upon in the Victorian era but it did happen. And it did not mean the end of the world. Look at the character of Fantine in Les Miserables. It was selfish of this Sibyl to kill herself because she did not just kill herself, she killed herself and the unborn baby that she seemed so eager to have only a few scenes earlier. It looked almost as if the suicide was out of spite.
Sibyl does kill herself in the earlier incarnations but at least she had never done it while carrying a baby and knowing she was carrying the baby, and having wanted to raise the child. It's hard to sympathize with this version of Sibyl, especially since you know her brother Jim would have taken care of both her and the baby if not Dorian.
Basil, however, was very sympathetic. One thing I'm glad they cut was that in most versions Basil didn't just disapprove of Dorian's relationship with Sibyl out of jealousy, he also had told him not to marry beneath his class. Basil doesn't do that in this version. Basil is the most sympathetic of Dorian's Victims in this film.
Dorian himself is played exceptionally well though my favourite character portrayal in this version is Lord Henry. Dorian goes from ruthless and cruel to sympathetic and tragic in a heartbeat. The struggle is perfect. You can see his conscience, and not just with the painting. He is fighting against his own darker instincts which adds to making him sympathetic.
As a true Oscar Wilde fan I feel they captured the spirit of Oscar Wilde's intent. This was the best version of The Picture of Dorian Gray I have ever seen, the black and white version coming in close second for having the better and more innocent version of Sibyl Vane.
I am in America and we never got a theatrical release of this version of Dorian Gray. This film is truly good, truly exceptional, and, if you want to watch any film about a young looking immortal, this is far more intelligent, interesting and just plain better than the Twilight Saga.
If you read the story you got the basic idea: Dorian (Ben Barnes) arrives in London, a naive, rich boy who inherits a large house complete with servants. But there are two men who talk to Dorian who greatly influence him: one, artist Basil, who paints the portrait and Harry (played by Colin Firth) who corrupts him.
A mild oath that the painting should remain as youthful as Dorian becomes mystical when he states he would "nail my soul to the devil's door."
The film proceeds to show us the destruction of Dorian -- a new love quickly fades when he begins to cheat on her (Cybil Vane, played by Rebecca Hall) -- and her fate is tied to her brother, which brother proceeds to stalk Dorian for several decades! This part of the film felt rushed with the girl's suicide and the brother hunting Dorian -- not very enthusiastically.
No, the film was concentrating on Dorian rather than the enemies he was making. Finally he find an intellectual equal with his friend Henry's daughter and comes to realize where the "stench" of his soul is coming from.
The painting itself was a bit much -- the special effects with the creepy thing coming partially out of the paiting was a bit silly. Why not just have the painting subtly change instead?
Despite these quibbles, the acting was top notch -- you came to believe Dorian and little sympathy for him as he went off the deep end, screwing society women and making out with a few men as well -- and a horrific murder or two!
Colin Firth (Oscar winner of last year's "The King's Speech") was the philosophical debaucher, with tidbits like: "Life is a moment, makit it burn always with the hardest flame." But his encouragement for Dorian to be immoral and cast away his ethics resulted in a pretty bad end.
Lesson learned: Yeah, make your life a moment but combine your freedom of action with some moral bindings and give some purpose to your life. Dorian's "flame", having no purpose, burned out rather quickly.
Cast & Crew:
Oscar Wilde (novel), Toby Finlay (screenplay)
Ben Barnes, Colin Firth and Rebecca Hall
The Picture of Dorian Gray: An Annotated, Uncensored Edition
The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Oscar Wilde Collection (The Importance of Being Earnest / The Picture of Dorian Gray / An Ideal Husband / Lady Windermere's Fan)
basically hot orphan dude with a history of abuse gets a but load of money and becomes a totally moraless hound dog banging everything that moves and then even stuff that doesn't while a painting of his reflects his dreck-a-tude