Title: The Picture of Dorian Gray
Author: Oscar Wilde
Genre: Classic Horror
Rating: 5 / 5 stars
Reading Challenges: Classics – Horror; Movies; Mount TBR
Oscar Wilde brings his enormous gifts for astute social observation and sparkling prose to The Picture of Dorian Gray, his dreamlike story of a young man who sells his soul for eternal youth and beauty. This dandy, who remains forever unchanged—petulant, hedonistic, vain, and amoral—while a painting of him ages and grows increasingly hideous with the years, has been horrifying, enchanting, obsessing, even corrupting readers for more than a hundred years.
Dorian Gray… so full of promise, so wasted in the end. I have forgotten how truly terrifying this novel is. To watch a man degrade himself to be nothing more than a hideous reflection of his former self is true horror. Wilde shows the psychological horror well. In the novel, we are served a cautionary tale. And yet I wonder if Wilde saw himself as Gray or Lord Henry. Was he the tempter or the tempted? These questions intrigue me more after reading about Wilde’s own life and subsequent court cases. I am leaning toward the idea that Wilde is Gray who finally had to face his own portrait in the end.
On the writing of the book, I have one big issue… Chapter 11 just kills me. The first half of the book follows Gray’s introduction to Lord Henry and the pleasures of the world. We view his tragic relationship with Sibyl Vane. We note his continual detachment from morality. The second half of the book chronicles his downfall. Yet in the middle we are “treated” to one ridiculously long list of the things he collected in the in between years. If I had to read one more paragraph about embroidery, I was going to throw the book down in disgust. The transition just isn’t there. And it blemishes an otherwise amazing horror novel.
Movie Version — 2009 Starring Ben Barnes and Colin Firth
I watched this movie a few months back and my initial reaction was: that was really bad. I wanted to try and rewatch it to pinpoint exactly why I felt it was horrid. So I attempted a rewatch.
I think my main problem with this movie is that it tries to sensationalize the story. It turns a psychological thriller in the view of Poe into a supernatural thriller complete with romance. I just don’t agree. The story itself is a much more interesting psychological descent into corruption and madness. I could have done without all the sex scenes. I’m no prude, but those just seemed so out of place. And the romance with Harry’s daughter just felt forced. Overall, I just couldn’t connect with the movie at all.
Side Note: I love Alan Moore’s version of Dorian Gray in The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. I feel that if Dorian hadn’t of faced his portrait when he did but continue to live, he would have become the Dorian of Moore’s universe. And the movie version: just bad. Anyone who has read LXG would agree that the movie could have been great, but it should have been rated R. Only way for it be good.
Side Side Note: I did love Stuart Townsend as Dorian Gray in the movie. Delicious!