Figure 1- Film poster
Dorian Gray was directed by Oliver Parker and was released in 2009. The film is an adaptation of the novel 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' written by Oscar Wilde, published in 1890. The story follows a character called Dorian Gray, a young man who moves to London after inheriting a wealthy fortune from his diseased grandfather. When living in London he is asked by an artist to sit for a portrait, and when the painting is completed Dorian is so taken with it that he wishes to become more like it. He falls in love with the idea of staying beautiful forever, and never aging or decaying like the man in the portrait. Without entirely realizing it at first, Dorian's wishes become true, and his soul is given to the devil in the trade for eternal youth.
When 'The Picture of Dorian Gray' was first published in 1890, it was ridiculed by countless numbers of book reviewers and publishers. It featured themes in the story that got the book labeled as 'indecent,' such as devil worship, sex, suicide and suggested homosexuality. However in this film adaptation of the book, these themes are not unheard of in the world of cinema, and the aspects of the book which made it unpopular, only added to the film.
Figure 2- Dorian and the portrait
One of the most obvious differences between this film adaptation and the original book, is the appearance of Dorian Gray. In the book he is described as a young man with pale skin, rosy cheeks, blonde hair and blue eyes. This description resembles a typical Aryan beauty and suggests that this was considered to be attractive in London in the late 1800s. Yet in this film adaptation from the 21st century, Dorian Gray is quite different to the original depiction that Oscar Wilde created. This may be down to the change of audience and what is considered attractive in the modern age.
Another aspect of the book that was emphasized in the film was the theme of homosexuality. This centers around the character Basil Hallward, who is the painter that creates Dorian's portrait. In the film Basil is taken by Dorian's looks and obsesses over him whilst painting the portrait. This is a suggestion of deep attraction, which leaves the audience questioning what Basil will do. However when Dorian shows a romantic interest in Sybil, a young actress, Basil shows full support towards Dorian and no signs of jealousy when he peruses the young woman. Though this may appear to cover up any attraction Basil may have for Dorian, it is soon uncovered to the audience when the two men share a kiss. Yet this kiss does not exist in the original book. Instead Basil's attraction to Dorian is strongly suggested when the artist tells him of his feelings when he first saw his face, and how beautiful he finds him. Reading that part of the book it is apparent that Basil does not just see Dorian as a friend, and his obsession with Dorian's face is not just of artistic interest.
Figure 3- Basil and Dorian
The first love interest to Dorian Gray is Sybil Vane, an actress who works at a small theater in a poor part of London. This is a significant character as she is considered to be the maiden archetype in the story, and her role as one of the significant female characters makes her even more important. Sybil's characteristics are significantly different in the film compared to her depiction in the book, and her story line is evident of that. In the book she falls in love with Dorian quickly right after meeting him. He is attracted by her skill as an actress and is keen to court her. However Dorian quickly looses interest in Sybil when she does a bad performance in one of her plays. She is left so heartbroken by Dorian that she takes an overdose and kills herself. In the film adaptation her story is very different as her and Dorian court each other which then results in them sleeping together. They then become engaged but their relationship finishes soon afterwards, as Dorian is not keen on the idea of starting a family as much as Sybil is. The brake up of their engagement results in Sybil ending her life, when she drowns herself in a river. It's then revealed by Sybil's brother, that she was pregnant with Dorian's child. In the film Sybil has a bigger motive to take her own life, as she was a poor woman expecting an illegitimate child. She had no wealth or status and was left in a position where she would rather end her life and the life of her unborn child because she knew that she wouldn't survive with out Dorian and the stability a marriage with him would bring.
Figure 4- Dorian courting Sybil
A significant object to Dorian Gray is his portrait. In the book the description of the portrait explains the physical aspects of it, and how it changes throughout the story. In the film the portrait is given more of a presence and a personality. It is to suggest that the painting has a conscious, and is watching Dorian constantly. As the portrait changes, it causes Dorian to realize what has happened between him and the painting, and so Dorian hides it away where no one else will see it. Yet Dorian seems to get great pleasure out of watching his portrait as it ages and decays. It's a reminder of how he'll never become what he sees in the portrait.
Overall the film is an adaptation of a historic story styled for a modern audience. Even though it was ridiculed, the story of Dorian Gray is one that is more appreciated in the 21st century, and it's themes that were once considered indecent now gives the story a popular status in modern cinema.
Figure 5- The demon behind the portrait
Figure 1- Film poster: http://vikisecrets.com/news/the-picture-of-dorian-gray
Figure 2- Dorian and the portrait: https://lashesandstars.wordpress.com/2011/02/23/film-review-dorian-gray-2009/
Figure 3- Basil and Dorian: http://screenmusings.org/movie/blu-ray/Dorian-Gray/pages/Dorian-Gray-0648.htm
Figure 4- Dorian courting Sybil: http://myveeshop.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/sybil-vane-in-dorian-gray-novel-by.html
Figure 5- The demon behind the portrait: http://www.moving-picture.com/film/filmography/dorian-gray