On becoming Dorian Gray

“Don’t worry, Dorian, the world is yours.”

I won’t be a hypocrite by saying that I don’t enjoy the more corporeal aspect of a film. As a matter of fact, most of the time, my approach to a film is that of an escapist desperately trying to break loose from the mundaneness of real life (at least for an hour and thirty minutes). I enjoy the lack of depth of most Hollywood movies. I silently dry my misty eyes after watching a Tagalog tear-jerker. And I shamelessly blurt uncontrolled laughter whenever I watch vintage Pinoy slapstick.

But when I am in my more serious mode, I can become very vicious, and yes, call me hypocritical because I am going to be one.

Based on the Gothic novel by Oscar Wilde classic The Picture of Dorian Gray, the film Dorian Gray (directed by Oliver Parker) is a story of a beautiful and naive young man Dorian (Ben Barnes) tempted to live a hedonistic life by his cynical friend, Harry Wotton (Colin Firth).

“Conscience is just polite term for cowardice.”

Dorian initially ignores Harry’s beliefs that people die of commonsense and that life is nothing but ‘moments that lack hereafter’. However, Dorian yields to the temptation when he finds out that it is the painting that absorbs all the effects of his sins and debauchery. He caused the suicide of the only woman he loves, Sybil. Little by little, Dorian falls into the pit of irredeemable sinfulness and hedonism. Leaving England for another country, he comes back unchanged physically, finding Harry and all the rest aging and moribund.

When portraying moral corruption and depravity in film, it is a wise decision to keep it subtle, subdued, and somewhat hinted. The line separating an art film from pornography, cheap comedy, and unpardonable chick flicks is rather thin, and a film cannot afford to cross that line without losing self-respect. Dorian Gray does just that.

Sex and anything kinkier than copulation are depicted with careless abandon. The film seems like a grand orgy participated in by the best looking people in England during Oscar Wilde’s time. Dorian Gray is an epitome of moral degeneracy, but a degeneracy that is too appealing, I wanted to be in his position while I watched the first part of the film; and I was sure I became Dorian Gray before the film ended.

Bad.

And the pleasurable feeling of being bludgeoned and bludgeoning somebody disturbed me.

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