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The Importance Of Being Earnest Play/Film Comparitive Essay

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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 вЂ?Ernest’ on her backside and Algernon and Jack’s duet of вЂ?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 criticisms of the upper class are also lost. This is also evident through Parker’s omission of jokes that are contextually specific.

In the present context many of Wilde’s contextual jokes in the play may not be as humorous in the present context, thus it is understandable why Parker has placed more emphasis on the farcical jokes, which would appeal to a wider audience. When Wilde wrote the play it was at a time when literature was becoming more widely available for all citizens, wealthy or poor. This gave Wilde room to write as he did, making a mockery of the upper class, as the lower class would enjoy it. However that was over a century ago, and in the modern context people may not find this as relevant or quite as amusing. However, the farcical elements of the play, such as the plot, are the kind of jokes that can be understood in either context. Therefore, Parker has not focused on the contextual jokes, and instead on the farcical jokes. It is the farce nature of the plot that Parker has constructed his romantic comedy around. While this enables the film to be appreciated by a wider audience, it no longer embodies Wilde’s criticisms of the upper class, which was the crux of Wilde’s play. However, Parker not only stops at one overembellished farcical plot, but he does the same with an extended sub-plot.

In Parker’s film adaptation, his emphasis of the sub-plot between Dr. Chasuble and Miss Prism, while becoming more entertaining, further detracts from Wilde’s concerns and only serves to strengthen the film as a romantic comedy. In Wilde’s play, Chasuble and Prism’s relationship was of minor importance, and merely just one of Wilde’s trivial farcical jokes. However in the film Parker has lengthened the sub-plot considerably and it bears greater weight. For example, there Parker has written up an entire scene where Prism and Chasuble are in the vestry, devoted entirely to them and their relationship. While Parker has emphasised the romance between these two characters he has ignored any other relevance of their characters in a comic sense. Dr Chasuble’s explanation of how his “sermon on the meaning of the mana in the wilderness can be adapted to almost any occasion” and Prism’s jibe at the poorer classes having too many babies are just two of the many jokes that have been left out of the film. Not only do these characters add comically, but they also demonstrate some of Wilde’s views, such as his view on the church, as well as his view on what is moral behaviour. Parker, in his romantic emphasis on Prism and Chasuble’s relationship, has ignored all other aspects of their characters, and uses them solely to strengthen the film as a romantic comedy. Another element of film he uses to strengthen the romantic comedy atmosphere is music.

The addition of music is a necessary for film,



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