‘The Happy Prince’ Opens in America
You could be forgiven for thinking that a blog about Oscar Wilde might not provide the most objective forum for a film about Oscar Wilde—perhaps being too close to its subject to see it as one would ordinarily.
However, the opposite turns out to be true about The Happy Prince because it is no ordinary film. It warrants a specialist view being itself the work of an Oscar Wilde specialist.
Rupert Everett has played Wilde’s fictional characters both on stage and in film; he has already appeared as the real Oscar Wilde in David Hare’s The Judas Kiss on both sides of the Atlantic; and, after spending an age poring over Wilde’s works in homage to his patron saint, Everett has also spent the last ten years of his life taking on a tide of personal and industry challenges in order to craft this film.
It is an effort that lays bare a more compelling reason why the film should not be regarded as just another movie. And it is a reason Everett shares with the artist Basil Hallward (in Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray) who accepted that his portrait of Dorian was not just another painting. He confessed: “I have put too much of myself into it.”
Wilde explained this characteristically philosophical view of art when he said:
“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter.”
So it is with Everett, whose devotion during a decade of writing, directing, and now acting in a lifetime passion, might also be regarded as his art. Certainly, The Happy Prince is a highly personalized vision: a dark introspection with the protagonist in almost every scene.
So the inference is that we should not approach the film routinely from the outside in, but rather the other way around. Taken on those terms, there is much to admire, not only for the specialist but for the generalist viewer.
Let us look at it, as Everett did, through that lens.