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In 1883, Irish born Oscar Wilde (Stephen Fry) returns to London from a year long lecture tour of the US and Canada. He meets and marries Constance Lloyd. A few years later, his wit, flamboyance and creative genius are widely renowned and his literary career has achieved notoriety with the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray. He and Constance now have two sons whom they both love very much. Then one evening, Robert Ross, a young Canadian house guest, seduces Wilde, forcing him to confront the homosexual feelings that have gripped him since childhood. In 1892, on the opening night of his acclaimed play, Lady Windermere’s Fan, he meets Lord Alfred Douglas, a cocky, dashing and smart young aristocrat nicknamed Bosie, and begins the passionate, stormy relationship that consumes him, and finally destroys him. Bosie’s father, the cantankerous and violent Marquess of Queensberry, libels Wilde, who on Bosie’s urging, takes him to court. But the times are against him, and he is in turn accused of homosexual conduct, sentenced to two years hard labour. On his release, his family waiting for him, Wilde first refuses to see Bosie again, but on Constance’s death finally relents, with disastrous consequences.

"Our synopsis relates the film’s ending as made, but that is at odds with what Wilde’s grandson, Merlin Holland, claims are the facts; namely that Constance died several months AFTER Wilde’s short-lived and unhappy reunion with Bosie. Indeed, it would have been a heart wrenching ending to follow the facts, seeing Wilde abandon his life’s love in Bosie, only to have his wife die and then to find his name not even mentioned on her headstone. Biopics should not be manipulated to that extent under dramatic licence, especially as the result weakens the impact. Fact is more powerful than fiction, chaps. All that aside, Wilde is a terrifc, moving and beautifully made film that should satisfy serious film goers, Wilde fans and anyone enjoying grown up cinema. Fry’s portrait of Wilde is at once generous yet balanced, superbly controlled yet full of complexities, and so ample that we feel we have met the real Wilde. It stays with you well after the film is over, and the supporting cast all live up to the challenge. Director Brian Gilbert also deserves credit for creating the social environment in which Wilde’s sexuality was abhorrent enough to jail him – and that was just a hundred years ago. The emphasis on Wilde’s sexuality may have overshadowed other aspects of the man, but at least the film shows us glimpses of the rest of his life, his literary accomplishments, his razor sharp intellect and his love for his family."
Andrew L. Urban

"Worth seeing for Stephen Fry’s outstanding performance alone, Wilde is an exquisite jewel adorned with a witty script and superlative production design. With an emphasis on the notorious poet & playwright’s homosexual exploits rather than his literary ones, the film is a sumptuous painting that is both beautiful and thought provoking. But the film belongs to Stephen Fry, whose powerful, restrained and commanding performance as Oscar Wilde is complete and haunting, and worthy of an endorsement from the statuette Oscar himself. The hypocrisies and double standards of the day are intricately portrayed: appearance is everything. Here we have innocence juxtapositioned with depravity, under the pretext of respectability. Artists are always children at heart, we are told. Wilde’s unselfish love for Bosie (Jude Law is mesmerising) is contrasted by possessive, obsessive and self-serving love; Jennifer Ehler is poignantly moving as Wilde’s constant Constance. Wilde is a film of moods: from erotic Beardsley inspired credits to sweeping violins singing their themes of romantic passion. To hear the English language used with such eloquence, poetry and dignity is a treat, while Wilde’s notion to have the courage to be one’s self is one for which we can aspire. Shame about the digression from the facts: on that, I agree with Andrew wholeheartedly."
Louise Keller

"The story of Oscar Wilde has been told countless times, but none as daring, provocative or with as much richness as this new British film. Perhaps the reason why it's so good is that it's so wonderfully acted by the extraordinary Stephen Fry. He was born to play Wilde, and he brings enormous depth, intelligence and passion to the character. For the first time, a film about the legendary playwright and satirist, looks at his tragic side, that torn between his homosexuality and his obvious love for his wife and family. As a study of nineteenth century sexual mores, Wilde is an intriguing film, compelling and complex. The film takes a no-holds-barred look at Wilde's sexuality, yet treating it with a poetic expressiveness. Beautifully photographed, the film doesn't shy away from the issues, and through the truly great performance by Fry, and equally strong work by Jude Law as the tormented Lord Douglas, Wilde is a striking film about sexuality, hypocrisy and a remarkable poet whose wit knew no bounds."
Paul Fischer

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WILDE (M)15+

CAST: Stephen Fry, Jude Law, Vanessa Redgrave, Jennifer Ehle, Gemma Jones, Judy Parfitt, Michael Shen, Zoe Wanamaker, Tom Wilkinson

DIRECTOR: Brian Gilbert

PRODUCER: Marc Samuelson, Peter Samuelson

SCRIPT: Julian Mitchell (based on the biography ‘Oscar Wilde’ by Richard Ellman)


EDITOR: Michael Bradsell

MUSIC: Debbie Wiseman


RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes



AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 15, 1998


Oscar Wilde’s grandson, Martin Holland, hurled a spear of searing criticism (via The Times) into the credibility of Wilde, the film about his famous ancestor, on the eve of its London world premiere – October 17, 1997. In his article, he refers to the "travesty" in the way the film ends, and attacks the imbalanced and prurient focus on Wilde’s homosexuality.

While critics (including ours) are raving about Stephen Fry’s performance, grandson Holland is raving mad about the insult the film is to his grandfather’s memory. In a London Times opinion piece, Holland wrote scathingly of the filmmakers focusing on his homosexuality. "It is a view which panders to public prurience and entirely misunderstands the complicated and charismatic man who still fascinates today," writes Holland.

"My art," wrote Wilde in his post-goal essay, De Profundis, "was the real passion of my life; the love to which all other loves were as marsh-water to red wine."

Holland’s main criticism, however, is of the film’s ending, which has Oscar and Bosie falling into each other’s arms at Rouen railway station, Oscar’s wife Constance having died two scenes before. "The reality, less neatly, was the reverse," says Holland.

"On his release from prison, Wilde went to France, where he spent four months near Dieppe writing The Ballad of Reading Goal. Tired of waiting for his wife and children to see him, in late August he gave in to Douglas’ pleas for a reunion in Rouen and then went to spend the winter with him in Naples. The warmed up affair was full of bitterness and argument and they separated for good after three months. As a final blow, Constance died in April the following year."

The irony of it all is that Holland was offered 5,000 pounds to act as a consultant to the film, but turned it down over one clause: the one that prohibited him from talking to any third party without permission. He occasionally wonders whether he should have taken the gig and tried to change things from the inside, as it were. But in the end, he concludes: "Those who buy silence rather than speech are seldom inclined to listen."

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