The Importance of Being Earnest
Play/Film Comparative Essay
Oliver Parker’s (2002) film adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s play ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is sadly completely consumed by the romantic comedy style, masking Wilde’s key concerns and detracting from important comic elements of the play. This can be observed through the varying representations of characters, the film’s lack of contextual jokes, the more prominent sub-plot between Dr Chasuble and Miss Prism, the addition of music and the way in which dialogue, while remaining true to the play, has lost meaning in the film.
In the play, Wilde achieves most of his humour through the wonderfully satiric characters, however in the film Parker represents them as being far more farcical. Throughout the Wilde’s play Algernon, Jack, Gwendolen, Cecily and Lady Bracknell all speak quite candidly of their thoughts and views of society. Although they do not realise it, their views do not grant them any merit, and only exemplify their flaws. Algernon’s opinion that “it is awfully hard work doing nothing” followed by “however, I don’t mind hard work where there is no definite object of any kind” is an example of how he has no concept of what “hard work” is, yet he believes that he does, and the audience laughs at the satire of it. In Parker’s film, while some of these lines remain the same, the satire in them is overshadowed by their farcical nature. Cecily’s vivid daydreams where Algernon is dressed as a knight in shining armour, Gwendolen’s tattoo of the name ‘Ernest’ on her backside and Algernon and Jack’s duet of ‘Lady Come Down’ are the scenes the audience remembers most, and sadly none of them are in the original. Because Wilde’s satire relies on the characters behaving with dignity, scenes like these in Parker’s film destroy all sense of dignity in these characters, and consequently there is no longer any satire. The loss of satire not only lowers the standard of comedy, but it also means that Wilde’s...
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