July 13, 2004

A Wilde Shot in the Dark

As you can see on the right, we watched Wilde last night. It was fairly disturbing . . . and I thought movies had stopped disturbing me awhile ago. I do not recommend it to . . . well, anyone, really.

But I wouldn't have minded nearly so much if they hadn't been so disgustingly incorrect in their characterization of Oscar Wilde. It's positively criminal . . . like the screenwriter penned a movie on the great author without reading anything he'd written. They actually did quote him at length in the movie, of course, but it's as if they weren't paying attention to what they were reading while selecting the quotes and so forth . . . Gross negligence!

I suppose I was also more than a little distraught by all of the familiar faces involved (the movie had a ridiculous number of famous actor types) . . . and what those faces were . . . ah . . . doing. You can get a full cast list for yourself if you want it . . . I will simply mention in passing that this was Orlando Bloom's film debut.

Now, on to the main point:

Wilde's character was reduced to that of your average quiet, sardonic wit . . . no flavor or flamboyance, no spring in the step, no gaiety. Well, okay, there was gaiety all right, it just wasn't the kind I'm talking about. If you're going to be gay, dammit, be gay!

Whatever. I sense that I am straying slightly from my original aim. The chief problem with the movie was this: It turned Oscar Wilde into a victim, not only of his society, but of other young men. He is seduced, to begin with, by a man younger than himself, and he proceeds to be swept into affair after affair as if he doesn't want to be involved at all, really.

Always he is the too-quiet voice of reason and propriety and moderation and discretion, simply unable to assert himself in the face of his lover's belligerence. Did any of them actually read all of De Profundis? (I have previously quoted pertinent portions of this letter, written to Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas on this blog.)

Wilde wants to do the right thing, or, failing that, he wants to be discrete about doing the wrong thing, but he is unable to get past the beautiful vision he seems to have of so-called "ideal love" as he believes it existed in Ancient Greece between master and disciple.

Meh. Again, whatever. All this and more I could have accepted as potentially believable, (or at least acceptable), twists on the actual character, but then they went and blew the moral of the story, and a movie with great potential for a powerful illustration of redemption becomes a self-righteous (and rather late) sermon for gay rights.

Oh, yes . . . Wilde found a moral. Well, fine, the movie found a moral as well, it just wasn't a moral moral. Or, rather, it was amoral moral. Uhhh . . . yeah. I just hope you aren't reading this out loud to someone for whatever reason.

Anyway, the point is, as the excerpt from De Profundis and the following excerpt from the poem he composed while he was in prison clearly show, Wilde was getting it. He spent the last few years of his life getting it, becoming a Catholic on his deathbed. He certainly didn't spend that time with Bosie.

From "The Ballad of Reading Gaol" (The "he" referred to repeatedly is a murderer, recently hanged)

And thus we rust Life's iron chain
Degraded and alone:
And some men curse, and some men weep,
And some men make no moan:
But God's eternal Laws are kind
And break the heart of stone.

And every human heart that breaks,
In prison-cell or yard,
Is as that broken box that gave
Its treasure to the Lord,
And filled the unclean leper's house
With the scent of costliest nard.

Ah! happy they whose hearts can break
And peace of pardon win!
How else may man make straight his plan
And cleanse his soul from Sin?
How else but through a broken heart
May Lord Christ enter in?

And he of the swollen purple throat,
And the stark and staring eyes,
Waits for the holy hands that took
The Thief to Paradise;
And a broken and a contrite heart
The Lord will not despise.

The man in red who reads the Law
Gave him three weeks of life,
Three little weeks in which to heal
His soul of his soul's strife,
And cleanse from every blot of blood
The hand that held the knife.

And with tears of blood he cleansed the hand,
The hand that held the steel:
For only blood can wipe out blood,
And only tears can heal:
And the crimson stain that was of Cain
Became Christ's snow-white seal.

Posted by Jared at July 13, 2004 11:31 PM | TrackBack