The Happy Prince
A true artist will embrace the real meaning of love, whether it be in spirit or physical form, and yet only recently have all forms of affection become truly appreciated and accepted. One man born ahead of his time, whose personality struck a chord with the world, was the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde. The renowned author, whose works include The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest, endured a troubled time in the latter years of his life, spending two years incarcerated in Reading Gaol for gross indecency and seeing his very public reputation tarnished, thrown into the fiery pits at the mercy of his admirers. It is at this lowest point in Wilde’s life that Rupert Everett picks up his story, in an all embellishing depiction of the writer’s final three years travelling in exile to Naples and then to France, attempting to live out the rest of his days in Bohemian fashion whilst finding peace with the world. With the backing of BBC Films and Everett filling the shoes of the playwright himself, The Happy Prince promises to deliver a salivating literary feast of a biopic, and it doesn’t disappoint.
Taking its title from one of Wilde’s popular children’s stories, the movie sees our protagonist arrive on the sunny shores of redemption following his release from prison. After vowing to reconcile with his wife Constance (Emily Watson), Wilde falls victim to a series of extravagant parties of his own demise, eventually perturbing those companions who have stood by him by falling into the arms of his previous lover, Lord Alfred Bosie Douglas (Colin Morgan). With his lifestyle proving costly and finances running low, Oscar must tackle the agonising clash between a life of free-willed passion and a reality where his love for writing has all but diminished along with his career in a world full of scornful disapproval.
Wilde’s post-prison days are without doubt the darkest of his existence; he is hidden away from the world’s gaze in various corners of Europe, and yet, despite this being considered the most interesting period, it is the least openly discussed. Everett’s film lifts the lid on this at a time when such an avant-garde lifestyle is mostly accepted in modern society, doing so with ultimate effect. Graced with philosophical elegance and class, Everett’s interpretation of the literary giant oozes compassion, serenity, sentiment and, most painfully, despair. His ability to embody this plagued being with such courage and respect really asks if he were born to play the role – and perhaps it truly has been his destiny to make this picture, since he also bears the directorial and writer credits.
The Happy Prince has been a project close to the actor’s heart not simply because of the contents of the plot, but because of the simple relatability between himself and Wilde. It is always difficult to serve appropriate justice to such a great man, but Everett executes his own work as a perfect tribute, harnessing a beautiful use of the English language through dialogue and narration in the movie, presenting phrases of ambiguity without proving arrogant and using passages from the playwright’s work to flesh out contextual meaning. At one point, when facing a heartbreaking moment of self-doubt, Wilde exclaims “I am my own Judas”. Who knew such words could resonate so powerfully? Everett did, and the film attests a fitting homage to the wordsmith.
This picture is blessed with stunning visual effects and cinematography, bursting with gorgeous orange sunsets, glinting scenery and glazed, lingering shots to heighten emotion, allowing the audience to visualise what Oscar Wilde is seeing following two years in an enclosed world. With a period soundtrack that fits with the exquisite photography, The Happy Prince acts as a true testament to the work and struggles of a tormented man wrestling with his soul and “dying beyond his means”, through fantastic cast performances and a script that would assuredly receive approval from the great writer himself.
The Happy Prince is released nationwide on 15th June 2018.
Watch the trailer for The Happy Prince here: