Friday, August 20, 2010

The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)

I am seriously, seriously scared of this movie.

I just watched it and I hurriedly started watching "Beauty and the Beast" to mellow out.

Yet despite how terrified of this movie, it's amazing. Now that I've made myself watch a Disney movie, I feel stable enough to write about this movie.

I usually read the books before I watch the movie adaptations. Not just to flinch every time a key story point is grossly done or overlooked. I read the books to understand know the story and see how this person interprets it. Everyone has their own interpretation and sometimes it's brilliant! Brilliant adaptations such as "Pride and Prejudice"(2005) or "Jane Eyre"(1943). Most adaptations have been horribly, horrible. Case in point:TWILIGHT. The only saving grace in that saga is the gratuitous cute boys without a shirt.

The movie is based on the novel written by Oscar Wilde. I shamefully confessed that I tried to read this novel. I didn't make it past 3 pages. The novel was written in the victorian era and I just can't get into it. Which is weird because I can flow through "Jane Eyre" no problem. I couldn't keep my eyes open in the first chapter of Wildes novel. It's just one of those novels that I could not read.

After watching the movie, I have a feeling that my subconscious knew I was going to terrified. So far that's two authors I have problems reading: Oscar Wilde and China Mieville.

The novels concerns the sins and conscience (or lack thereof) of a young aristocrat named Dorian Gray. As he models for his fellow aristocrat friend Basil to paint his portrait, he listens with an attentive ear to a friend of Basil named Lord Henry. Lord Henry has the reputation for being coldly amoral and models his life on doing perfectly nothing. As Lord Henry talks about youth and how Gray should cherish it, he remarks how the painting will always stay young while Gray will grow old. Gray wistfully wishes that if only it was the opposite.

Somehow, someway his wishes are granted. Gray begins to take Lord Henrys advice to enjoy the pleasures of life to heart. For every sin that he commits, it's reflected upon the painting. Throughout the next twenty years, Gray remains young as he manipulates people and takes his pleasure.

The sins aren't explicitly mentioned in the novel or the movie but there's a whole bunch of it. Sex, seduction jilted lovers, bisexualism, leading people to their own suicide, murder.

This movie is SEEPED in metaphors. Due to two major censorship vehicles.

One was the fact the novel was written in the victorian era. There are alot of literature research done on this novel so I would only mention that high society did not take to reading such colorful exploits readily. If Wilde had not cleverly used metaphors and symbolism to buffer the horror, his novel would not have been published. Most of the movie is dialogue which gives you some clues as to what those horrors are.

Two was the Hays Code. This movie was made when censorship of movies made it impossible to even mention any words about murder or bisexualism.

Yet despite the censorship, the movie still strongly conveys the horror that is Dorian Gray. To live a live so empty and hell bent on obtaining pleasure without any regard to those around him shouldn't frighten me but it does. The transition of the painting from young Gray to the horror of True Gray actually had me yelping. The metaphors (i.e. the blocks in the playroom representing the initials of the the deaths he's responsible for) impresses me. I'm not well versed in classical music but the use of Chopin was amazing.

Plus, seeing YOUNG Angela Lansbury singing "Yellow Bird" was just riveting. Which makes my choice for following this movie with "Beauty and the Beast" since Lansbury is the voice of Mrs. Potts.

Next time I watch "The Picture of Dorian Gray" movie for some reason, I'm watching it in the daytime!

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