Thursday, September 9, 2010

RIP Read #2 and RIP Film #1: Dorian Gray

As a big fan of Oscar Wilde's story The Picture of Dorian Gray and the 1945 film version, I thought I would join the 21st century this year and change up the formats in which I experienced the story for the RIP Challenge this year.

First, I read the graphic novel version, "written" by Roy Thomas and illustrated by Sebastian Fiumara.  This is part of the Marvel Illustrated series of classics retold in graphic versions.  Lest you worry, this is from Thomas' introduction:
Since our aim was to tell Wilde's story, in the author's own words wherever possible, I was loath to put words into the mouths of his characters.
I think that Thomas definitely did a great job of this.  Wilde's humor and cynicism shows through on every page and Fiumara's skilled and reserved illustrations are a fantastic companion.  And yet, this is still a graphic novel and I had to chuckle when seeing such things as "BLAMM" and "SHUNK" in the middle of Wilde's story.  I think this would be a good introduction to the story for someone that is a bit wary of Victorian language.  It contains a four page glossary at the back of possibly unfamiliar words like brougham and pomander.  It is also lacking in Wilde's long passages of philosophy which might appeal to some readers wanting to just explore the plot of the story.  This (and others in the Marvel Illustrated series) might even be a good start for someone wanting to explore graphic novels but who is not sure how to make the leap from standard literature without landing in comic book territory.

Next, I watched the recent film version of Dorian Gray which was finally released on DVD here in the U.S. a couple of weeks ago.  It stars Ben Barnes (Prince Caspian) as Dorian Gray and Colin Firth as Lord Henry Wotton.

As you could probably guess would happen, this was a ridiculously sensationalized version of the story with uncountable plot and character changes.  As always, Firth was fantastic in his role (just as wonderful as George Sanders in 1945) but Barnes just wasn't able to surpass Hurd Hatfield's amazing performance in the old film.  And the plot changes seemed unnecessary in some parts and ridiculous in others.  An added character even changed Dorian's final attempts at redemption into just another selfish act.  I was quite disappointed in this film overall.

And as a side question -- why is gratuitous violence more acceptable to film audiences than nudity?  This film is full of fight scenes and murders or attempted murders and yet barely shows any nudity, though sex was implied to be the bulk of Dorian's sins against others.  It was just incredibly unbalanced and, as I am not a fan of violent scenes, it really made me lose almost any interest in this film.  It turned the story into something it was never meant to be and was disappointing.

If this was a Book v. Movie post, I would definitely say "avoid the film but look for the graphic novel if you're into them or thinking about trying one out".

As sparkly clean on the outside as in,

Support our site and buy The Picture of Dorian Gray (Marvel Illustrated) on Amazon or find it at your local library.  We bought our own copy.


  1. Dude, the violence/sex-and-nudity in films thing has bothered me for years. My mother used to complain about it all the time when we were in our early teens, how she wouldn't mind letting us watch R-rated films with sex in them but they were always so violent. Then I saw that documentary about film ratings (This Film Is Not Yet Rated), and it went on at some length about the ridiculous amounts of violence you can have before a movie's rating gets bumped up to R, and the incredibly tiny amount of sex.

  2. Interesting approach--I reread Dorian Gray last year and was so disappointed in it. I remember really being impressed by it as a teenager, but thought that Wilde rambled and should've made it a short story and not a short novel.

    I actually think the story lends itself well to the graphic approach, which retains most of the language of the book but shortens it. In my opinion, DG needed editing and it sounds like the graphic approach did this!

    After I was disappointed in the novel, I skipped the movie because of so many mixed reviews. Sounds like I was right to do so :)

  3. I've never read The Picture of Dorian Gray and I am a little intimidated because my husband had such a vehement reaction. It may be best if I get my feet wet with the graphic novel first, so to speak.

  4. I could see the graphic novel as being an ideal way to dip a toe into classics you aren't sure about. I wonder if they have a graphic version of The Brothers Karamazov?

  5. That's the second review of the Dorian Grey movie I have read lately. I can't believe I never even knew it existed!

  6. I put the new movie version on my Netflix list just because (*cough* Colin Firth *cough*) but I am really excited to hear about the older version. I'll definitely hunt for that one. Really must read the book someday too... Thanks for this review!

  7. Jenny - It bugged me more than normal in this one because I never had the impression that Dorian was going and getting punched in the face for fun. I always thought it was more sex and drugs and gambling. And yet the movie decided to go in a different direction.

    Jane - Yeah, the movie was a rather poor adaptation.

    Lola - The graphic novel would be a good place to start!

    Jenners - Haha! I know they have Moby Dick which I might just cheat with. ;)

    Kailana - I only heard about it from UK people because they got it in the theaters. It went straight to DVD in the US.

    Tuulenhaiven - If you're just watching for Colin Firth, it's worth it. ;) The old movie is awesome!

  8. Kristen -
    I have this book on my list and want to read the book before I watch the movies. I am wondering it the graphic novel will spoil the book? hmmm

  9. Shellie - It's possible that reading the graphic novel might make it harder to get through the book because it's just the action parts boiled down. The novella doesn't move as quickly or smoothly. ;)