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Movie Review

Dorian Gray

MPAA Rating: R for sexual content including nudity, violence and some drug use.

Reviewed by: David Criswell, Ph.D.
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Fantasy Thriller Drama Adaptation
Length:
1 hr. 52 min.
Year of Release:
2009
USA Release:
DVD: August 24, 2010
UK theatrical release: September 9, 2009
Copyright, E1 Entertainment Distribution click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, E1 Entertainment Distribution Copyright, E1 Entertainment Distribution Copyright, E1 Entertainment Distribution Copyright, E1 Entertainment Distribution Copyright, E1 Entertainment Distribution Copyright, E1 Entertainment Distribution Copyright, E1 Entertainment Distribution
Relevant Issues
Copyright, E1 Entertainment Distribution

Goodness

Goodness of God

Deal with the Devil

Satan

Devil

Is Satan a real person that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer


About murder in the Bible

Death in the Bible

Final judgment

Gay kiss

GAY—What’s wrong with being gay? Answer
Homosexual behavior versus the Bible: Are people born gay? Does homosexuality harm anyone? Is it anyone’s business? Are homosexual and heterosexual relationships equally valid?

Read stories about those who have struggled with homosexuality

Featuring: John Hollingworth (Patrol Policeman), Caroline Goodall (Lady Radley), Colin Firth (Lord Henry Wotton), Max Irons (Lucius), Nathan Rosen (Young Dorian), Jeff Lipman (Lord Kelso), Rachel Hurd-Wood (Sibyl Vane), George Potts (Photographer), Lisa Marie Cooke (Beautiful Girl), Robert Johnston (Opera Singer), Dalia Nakutyte (Tattooist), Lily Garrett (Young Emily Wotton), Kit Derbyshire (Guy Fawkes Child), Emily Phillips (Alice Radley), Guillaume Grange (Ratcatcher), Andrew Harrison (House Agent), Ben Barnes (Dorian Gray), Ben Chaplin (Basil Hallward), more »
Director: Oliver Parker
Producer: Ealing Studios, Fragile Films, more »
Distributor: E1 Entertainment Distribution

“Forever young. Forever cursed.”

Oscar Wilde is one of the world’s most unique authors of literature. Known mainly for his satire and wit, he was also a man haunted by inner turmoil. Plagued by his own sinful lifestyle (for which he spent time in prison), his writings also reflect a desire for salvation. It is no small irony then that Oscar Wilde was baptized on his deathbed and repented of his sins (presumably this included his alleged homosexual lifestyle as well).

The Picture of Dorian Gray is one of Wilde’s best stories and an apt description of the inner turmoil and struggle he faced in life. The story has been made into a film no fewer than fifteen times. The best version (and first sound version) was made in 1945, starring a young Angela Lansbury. The latest version is the one reviewed here starring Colin Firth. I will constantly refer to both in this review, for they are a prime example of how a single story can be told in two starkly contrasting ways. The 1945 version showed Gray’s inner pain, fears, and struggles. The new version shows his sins… in great detail. The first is about the scars left by sin. The latter about exploiting sin.

The story is about a man (Dorian Gray) who unwittingly makes a pact with the devil. All the scars from his sins will appear on a painting of him, but never on his own flesh. He will stay forever young and beautiful, but when he looks at the painting he sees the effects of his sin upon his soul. The picture of Dorian Gray is then a picture of his very soul.

In the 1945 version Dorian’s transformation from a pure, innocent man to a man of sin is slow and tastefully done. In this new version, the transformation is all too quick. He looses his virginity to Sibyl Vane, with whom he intends to marry, and then, the very next day, he engaged in a foursome with three prostitutes! Further still, a day after his fiance commits suicide, he is having sex with a minor and her elderly mother! The change in his character, both sudden and extreme, making it unbelievable. I never feel for the loss of Dorian’s soul as I did in the 1945 film.

Not surprisingly, this version is packed with sex, nudity, violence, gore, and perversions, including a brief homosexual scene between Dorian and Basil, who was supposed to be his “voice of conscience”! I was not surprised, for it typifies the difference between generations. In the Angela Lansbury film, we do not have to see Dorian’s sins… we see them on the painting. Isn’t that the point? In the new film, the director focuses on Dorian’s sins and seems to revel in them. He does so to the point that Basil, Dorian’s “voice of conscience” in the book and previous films, engages in one of his homosexual sins and yet is still shocked to find that Dorian is not the innocent pure man he appears to be!

Another difference in the newest version of Dorian Gray is the addition of Freudian psychology. Dorian constantly has flashbacks to an abusive father which were absent from the novel and previous films. It interjects the assumption that a man’s sins are forged in his youth. This Freudian precept has caused many Christians to look back on the past with bitterness in an attempt to “nderstand” their sins, but Christ ordered us to forgive and forget. Curiously enough, the scenes added nothing to the film and were quickly forgotten. They seemed to have no real impact upon the film at all.

I recommend the 1945 version, but cannot recommend this version, despite its production values. Ultimately, this latest version, though finely photographed with nice cinematography, failed to capture the essence of Oscar Wilde’s story. What if all of our sins did not effect our body and soul? What if the years of sin and age took its toll upon a painting instead of our face? And finally, can redemption exist for such a man? Dorian Gray’s soul was laid bare before his own eyes, but hidden from the eyes of the world. He alone could see the evil that he did by looking upon his painting.

Oscar Wilde, like Dorian Gray, found redemption in his dying days. He was baptized into the Church and repented of his sins. Nevertheless, this version of “Dorian Gray” seemed to completely omit any element of redemption, even altering the storyline somewhat. If only the film had shown redemption, instead of reveling in the sins of its protagonist, the film might have captured Wilde’s soul on a picture of its own; the Picture of Oscar Wilde. As is, it is but a pale reflection of Wilde’s famous novel.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Positive
Positive—I have to confess that I saw this with clear play filtering on, so I was kept from anything really offensive. That said, I loved this movie! I don’t want to give anything away, but it was extremely well made, and quite unique. It did show that living for pleasure, may be fun for a season, but that its price was much too hard to bare. There were some biblical truths in this. So, I say watch it with a filter!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Pam, age 43 (USA)
Negative

none

Comments from young people
Negative—DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE! it is a horible, sad, disgusting movie. If you must, read the book; it is much cleaner!
My Ratings: Moral rating: / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Liz, age 17 (USA)