The Picture of Dorian Gray – Review

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Fair warning. This is an outraged rant. Also contains a great deal of spoilers. If you haven’t read the book and intend to, do not read on. Otherwise please proceed and don’t forget to comment.

I recently finished reading ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ one of the greatest works ever to have been published. Its author Oscar Wilde very seductively managed to keep me hooked onto every word for two days until I finished reading. Everything about the book, the storyline, the characters, the various underlying themes prevalent in the text keep you glued until you receive a satisfactory answer to the whys and how comes.

After being completely mesmerized by the book, I clearly hadn’t had enough and decided to download the movie version. A friend suggested the 2009 one starring Colin Firth, the only version with a rating of 6.2. Now I really respect Colin Firth as an actor. Had my doubts about Ben Barnes of the Prince Caspian fame though.

Anyway bottom line, I was utterly disgusted by the movie. I kept telling myself that movies are mere adaptations of the book and that they are twisted to get an audience but Director Oliver Parker very successfully managed to drive a six inch stake through Oscar Wilde’s heart. Had he been alive, he would have stabbed himself right under the ear, like Dorian stabs poor Basil.

Here is a list of things where I feel the movie horribly failed to do justice to one of the finest pieces of literature.

  • The death of Sybil Vane. That represented the beginning of Dorian’s downfall. The movie failed to capture the moment in its entirety. Dorian had a very good reason for leaving Sybil. She disappointed him, in front of the very people he wanted to show her off too. He could not forgive her for failing at the one that had made him love her. The movie however suggested otherwise. The break up wasn’t even a proper break up. He just went away, nothing to suggest he wasn’t going to marry her. Certainly not enough to make Sybil kill herself.
  • Sir Henry Wotton. I really admire Colin Firth. I think he is a remarkable actor. But even he couldn’t do justice to the character of Sir Henry Wotton. True he had a significant hand in making Dorian who he was, but the movie blamed him entirely. His love for Dorian was also misrepresented. Over the years he acted not only as a mentor to Dorian but also as a friend and confidante.
  • Dorian Gray. I reserve judgement over the casting of Ben Barnes as Dorian Gray. He is not a bad actor, but as Dorian Gray he failed. Everything in the book comes down to the point when the self realization of the corruption of his soul hits Dorian and he decides to destroy his own picture, knowing what he is giving up. That alone makes the reader love him even after what he has become. The movie? Oh yeah totally destroys the essence. It isn’t Dorian who destroys the picture but Wotton! I ask you how in the world? And that too after he discovers that Dorian killed Basil. Wotton would have never killed Dorian over Basil’s murder. In his own words he found Basil ‘rather dull’ only catching his fancy when he confessed his adoration for Dorian.
  • James Vane. Sybil’s brother set out to take revenge from the man who took his sister’s life. He dies accidentally when the bullet meant to kill a rabbit strikes him instead. That poor men can be killed without it affecting the rich is the idea heavily surrounding the incident. The movie instead throws him in front of an oncoming train. Sheesh!

The point behind this entry: always read books. The movies based on books are sure to disappoint you beyond your wildest imagination!

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8 responses »

  1. I can see you’re totally smitten by the book (and with good reason). It’s ironic that we hold Dorian Grey, the book to almost as high a standard as Dorian held himself. Consider the movie to be the final act of defilement when he destroys his own picture… Maybe it’s emblematic of the disaster that seems to be this movie. I’m not watching it after your candid review.

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