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Dorian Gray (2009)
Director: Oliver Parker

review by Sandra Scholes

The concept of this story is much more than an interesting one. The idea of a portrait of a man that takes all the debauchery, pain, suffering and age instead of the real person who sat for the portrait is loosely based on an original thought.

Dorian Gray (Ben Barnes) starts out as an innocent young man brought into the world of the aristocracy, and once he meets the cynical and cruel Lord Henry Wotton's (Colin Firth) Puck type character he soon learns what life is like for the rich and influential alike in a new world of temptation and excess.

Henry acts as a tempter in everything Dorian does. He likes nothing more than to lead Dorian down the wrong path though Basil Hallward (Ben Chaplin) tries his best to get Dorian to see reason. If the viewer sees Henry and Basil as devil and angel then they are on the right track in understanding the movie as one tries to outwit the other.

As a horror it has many of the elements that make it a good one. Dorian is continually haunted by his grandfather who used to treat him badly, beat him and scold him verbally. Though Basil's only reason for keeping him on the right track is that he has fallen in love with him, some might say he is smitten by his muse as so many poets and painters have done in the not so distant past. Dorian does not reciprocate that love leaving Basil empty and unhappy with his lot later on.

Dorian is further haunted by another woman, as he inadvertently caused her death. She is his only regret through the entire movie as should he have not gone down that wrong path she would have still been alive and he would have been happily married by now. This proves what a true innocent Dorian is and how he is so easily turned by someone as subtly destructive as Henry.

The real horror is Dorian's merciless killing of Basil when he asks to see his painting after he has taken it out of view in the house. Ben Barnes gives this scene the right treatment. When he repeatedly stabs him with the shard of glass his facial expression is that of ecstasy and almost sexual pleasure as he plunges it into the body of the man who would have loved him unconditionally. There is also the aspect of the reverse vampire as Dorian uses the painting to stay young as opposed to him having to search for victims - so the painting acting as victim can explain the reason it has for trying to attack Dorian when he visits it in the attic.

Also at the end of the movie the sight of the painting as it looks a year later is ghoulish and has a resemblance to Dorian's grandfather, looming out of the canvas, threatening Dorian and anyone else who comes to view it. It is the product of Dorian coming into contact with so much sexual desire, drugs, drink and murder and it is clear that he did not want anyone let alone Basil to see how he really looked as the painting represents Dorian's id personality shamelessly wanting to be released into the world.

The point is Dorian is still enjoying his youth and wants to experience more of the indulgences he has had before - right up until the near end when he realises how wrong he has been and decides to change. It doesn't help that the woman he later falls for is Basil's daughter, causing him to have double standards about Dorian sending her down the wrong path in the same way he has done countless other women.

This is part of the subtle twist in the tale, and how Dorian complains that Henry has made him the way he is once he sees the state of the painting. It is similar to Frankenstein's monster turning on his creator and blaming him for everything going wrong in his life. Dorian can no more risk anyone seeing the painting and being allowed to live than David Banner (in the TV series) can risk anyone knowing he is really the Incredible Hulk.

Basil's undoing is his later hatred of Dorian and his jealousy of him being able to keep his beauty and youth after the others he has associated for so long have lost theirs due to age.

Dorian Gray

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Dorian Gray

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