Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Dorian Gray (DVD Review)

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Image: Courtesy of Alliance Films
Legal line: © Dorian Gray Limited / UK Film Council 2009. All Rights Reserved. Distributed exclusively in Canada by Alliance Films. All Rights Reserved. © Dorian Gray Limited / UK Film Council 2009. Tous droits réservés. Distribué exclusivement au Canada par Alliance Vivafilm. Tous droits réservés.

Dir: Oliver Parker (St. Trinian's, St Trinian's II: The Legend of Fritton's Gold, An Ideal Husband)
Cast: Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Ben Chaplin, Rebecca Hall, Douglas Henshall, Rachel Hurd Wood, Fiona Shaw, Emilia Fox
UK, 2009

Reason to see: I've been wanting to see this since TIFF'09, but there was only public screening was at the same time as Vahalla Rising. I had no idea it would be a year and a half before I'd end up getting to see it!

One of the reasons I was so excited about seeing Dorian Gray was that at the time I had recently read The Picture of Dorian Gray but Oscar Wilde, the novel on which it is based and I was over the moon thrilled over the perfect casting of Ben Barnes (Stardust, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader) as the always young Dorian, Colin Firth (The King's Speech) as the witty and wordy Lord Henry and Ben Chaplin (Birthday Girl) as the picture painter Basil. What a wonderful set of actors to bring to life a film based on such an interesting work.

The main idea of the book and story are the same, following the journey young Dorian who returns to London and becomes friends with Lord Henry who admires and is jealous of his beauty & youth and Basil, a painter who captures Dorian youth hauntingly in a painting. Over time Dorian does not appear to age, an affliction that in contained mysteriously within the painting itself. Dorian begins to act of the suggestions of Lord Henry (although not his actions), and begins to indulge at any and every whim without having any consequence, as he's able to turn any favour due to his youthful appearance and appeal.

I did enjoy the stylistic elements of the film including the great score and fantastic costumes.
The portrait itself is quite fantastic, as someone whose taken (and was dismal) at portraiture, I can really appreciate the skill of capturing a likeness with such success, especially when it's not only a likeness of a person but one step further as an actor playing a character. Colin Firth does a fantastic as the witty Lord Henry, although I felt like the wit he captured wasn't overly responded to or matched by the rest of the cast. I really enjoyed both Ben Chaplin and Ben Barnes, but the tone of the trio felt not in tune.

While I was watching the film I had a hard time placing what it was about it that I wasn't quite connecting to, but listening to the audio commentary made the light bulb go on which was that they decided to not really include any of the supernatural elements of the story. I find this quite a curious choice, because it's the 'how' explanation of what is (or isn't) happening to Dorian, and nothing is substituted in to explain it. We get a hint of the impetuous of the actions, but thinking it through it's clear that the film is more about the demise of Dorian as a result of indulgence and the feeling of the overwhelming power he possesses.

Personally I would have loved and had looked forward to a more supernatural touch, but alas that was not the focus here. But as an examination of indulgence and the consequence of rarely meeting consequences, I felt that the film read held up well.

DVD Extras:
  • Audio commentary with director Oliver Parker & writer Toby Finlay very interesting commentary if you are interested in the choices of the book to film adaptation as they notate how many people have familiar with the story but not read the book (at all or recently), but I have to say it's one of the most defensive commentaries I've listened too as you can feel the impact of criticism towards choices in the film and adaptation read very strongly. I did gain a lot of insight into the film from hearing about the choices, as well as be reminded that I myself wasn't as familiar with the material as I remembered!
  • 4 Featurettes: Make Up & Wardrobe (2 minutes) costume lineup for 1891 London with 160 people, full hair and make up for Pip Torrens which was quite extraordinary, The Painting (1 minutes) interview with the painter of the painting in the film and the tone and look of the painting and how it changed during the film, Smithfield Market (2 minutes) behind the scenes and on green screen set discussing the world that will be created with the effects with interview with visual effects supervisor and horse master and Visual Effects (4 minutes) interview with visual effects supervisor discussing the different elements of the film that had visual effects including challenges, influences and inspirations for the different effects from the painting itself to set extensions and includes showing several visual transformations which were pretty sweet.
  • Costume Design Photo Gallery (1 minutes) slideshow of fashion illustrations of outfits for several of Dorian's outfits throughout different stages of the film along a Lord Henry outfit as well, set to music.
  • Deleted Scenes (5 scenes, 6 minutes) most feel like are from the later part of the film where Dorian is faced with some of the longer term effects of his actions and there is a brief scene between Dorian & Sibyl that I rather enjoyed.
  • Making of (19 minutes) film clips, behind the scenes and interview with writer Toby Finlay, producer Barnaby Thompson, director Oliver Parker and actors Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Ben Chaplin, Emilia Fox, Pip Torrens, Rebecca Hall, Maryam D'Abo, Fiona Shaw and Johnny Harris discussing their thoughts on the book, the language, the adaptation, the character and journey of Dorian, the relationships of other characters to Dorian, living at a time of acceleration, the power of beauty and what Oscar Wilde would have thought of the film and film in general.
  • Blooper Reel (9 minutes) interesting blooper reel as it often shows takes of the same scene over and over, really giving you a look at the actors choices and if they do things differently or the same. Some really great stuff in there dramatically along with goofs and giggly moments.
  • Trailer
Dorian Gray is available on DVD as of February 22, 2011. Check it out over at Amazon.ca & Amazon.com.

Shannon's Overall View:
I wanted to enjoyed it more
I'll watch it again
I'd recommend it as darker take the story and fans of dark, historically set films

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© Shannon Ridler, 2011

3 comments:

Suzie Ridler said...

I really wanted to see this movie. I studied the story in university and loved it. How horrid they decided not to focus on the supernatural element, that is the crux of what makes this story fascinating. Bummer Shannon

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Yeah, I totally thought of you when I was listening to the commentary when they mentioned not going with the supernatural stuff.

Conceptually I find it interesting that they went with a different take, but I think it would have been stronger if there was a decision or clarity explain what was going on.

Also reminded me how little I remember from the book, beyond the characters & the concept!

Suzie Ridler said...

Clarity is always a good thing. I just can't imagine a story being strong with less supernatural influences when it is a paranormal tales. I suppose that makes it more of a mystery but not super interesting to me.

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