Oscar Wilde’s timeless classic, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” has seen its fair share of film adaptations through the years. It was first brought to the screen in 1910, when a Danish film studio chose one of the biggest stars of the time, Valdemar Psilander, to portray the charismatic, perpetually young antagonist. This was followed by a myriad of different versions, varying in tone and atmosphere – the 40s saw Albert Lewin’s beautiful but heavily toned-down classic, the 70s gave us a whole host of excessively camp Euro-trash romps, and the last decade produced several films based on the enduringly popular story, most notably an opulent but ultimately rather stale British drama starring Ben Barnes and Colin Firth.
Yet, despite having been adapted numerous times, both as a period drama and a contemporary tale, there has been only one occasion in which a filmmaker opted to explore what Wilde’s story would have been like if Dorian was female. The result was Tony Maylam’s 1983 straight-to-tv film “The Sins of Dorian Gray” which offers a new, refreshing look at the original text but ultimately fails to realize the full potential of the female Dorian concept.
Now, almost 35 years after Maylam’s film, singer-songwriter Annie Clark, a.k.a. St. Vincent has set out to create her own version “The Picture of Dorian Gray” featuring a woman as the titular character. The Grammy-winner recently branched out into directing by helming a short film entitled “Birthday Party” as part of the female-driven horror anthology “XX,” and if the intriguing featurette is anything to go by, we have every reason to be excited for her take on “Dorian”.
Annie Clark a.k.a. St. Vincent won the Best Alternative Album Award at the 2015 Grammys.
“Birthday Party” utilizes a well-balanced blend of humour and horror in order to ridicule the toll which society’s expectations have on us all. Its narrative is simple and borders on farce – a high-strung mother is so determined to throw the perfect birthday party for her seven-year-old that, when she discovers that her husband has died, she opts to hide the body rather than shatter the illusory picture of perfection she’s been carefully crafting.
If Clark chooses to follow a similar path with “Dorian,” by exploring society’s aggressive obsession with youthful looks and its toxic effect on women, her reading of Wilde’s masterpiece could make for a refreshing and thought-provoking feature.
Lionsgate has just launched production on “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” and although there is very little information about the film at this stage, we do know that David Birke, the writer behind the highly acclaimed thriller “Elle,” will be responsible for the script. His involvement in the feature, coupled with Clark’s proven skills behind the camera, promise a memorable rendition on Wilde’s novel. And, since the casting choices are yet to be confirmed, we are very much hoping that Lionsgate will opt for a diverse cast, and will consider a woman of colour for the part of the titular character.
Anyone else agree that Gugu Mbatha-Raw would make a perfect female Dorian?