Posted by: allisongran | December 16, 2011

Modern Adaptations of Dorian Gray

After rereading Dorian Gray I was struck by how incredibly gothic it was, which I’m sure I realized the last time, but for some reason it stood out to me much more now. Perhaps it was in stark contrast with other works we’ve read (other than Alice) which seem do deal so much more with the world as it is. It made me wonder at the shifts society takes in the reading of the same story. This can be easily seen in the adaptations of the novel to film. For example the 1945 movie adaptation appears to focus mainly on the moralistic aspects of the plot, speaking more to the horrors of his crimes and vices, the magic behind the painting merely being an addition.

However, if we look at how the latest modern film adaptation presents the story, it appears to be much more gothic and mystical in its plotline, choosing instead to play to the idea that the immorality came from the cursed magic and corrupt figures around him.

Between these two adaptations, the later appears to be not only much darker, but much more transfixed on the nature of the occult behind it all where the 1945 film seems to just accept that it is and focus more on the actions taken by the character himself. Both are interesting interpretations and I wonder as to whether or not this speaks at all to the desires of society at the time or only the director himself. I do not know enough about it to make a guess, I can only observe that modern society does seem to have a desire, particularly in our entertainment, for the supernatural.


  1. What about your brief nod to this revealing not just a “social desire for the supernatural” in modern adaptations, but more so a need to personify human desires and immoralities outside oneself? In 1945, was moral thinking more focused on personal responsibility, while in the postmodern age we tend more to see our selves as products of society’s hand on shaping us. Why does Dorian seem such a pitiful victim in some versions and as a wilfull “sinner” in others?

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