After ten year labour of love Rupert Everett writes, directs and embodies Oscar Wilde in The Happy Prince,the little known story of the last two years of disgraced poet and playwright’s life.
At one time in his life Oscar Wilde had the world at his feet, he was the most famous man in London.
Wilde’s lover Bosie Douglas was the son of the Marques of Queensbury. Upon hearing of his son’s affair he declared Wilde a sodomite. Wilde then sued the marques for libel. However, it would be Wilde himself who would be accused of gross indecency, and imprisoned for two years, with hard labour.
After his release from Reading Gaol, with the help of his friends Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas) and Reggie Turner (Colin Firth), Wilde absconds from Britain to take refuge in France. The acclaimed poet is destitute, reliant on a meagre allowance from his wife, who has disowned him, which is where this story begins.
Having found God in prison, resolute Wilde wishes to make amends with his spouse, and lead a purer life. But we can’t help who we fall in love with, and when Bosie returns to Wilde’s life, the result will become catastrophic.
Everett has managed to create a respectful narrative charting the dire disposition of Wilde.
His fall from grace, and the humiliation that Wilde was subjected to forms a stark reminder to the prejudices incurred by those, who by their very nature, are attracted to a person of the same sex.
When you strip away the romanticism of the film’s soft lighting, there is a real dark undercurrent to The Happy Prince.
It is an unconventional love story, but not of Bosie and Wilde. In fact it is the relationship between Robbie Ross and Wilde, which is where we witness the true definition of love.
Getting this project off the ground has been a constant battle for Everett, a battle faced by many an independent filmmaker. Everett though, was in the fortunate position of having Colin Firth attached to the project, before he even won his Oscar.
After acutely studying Wilde for so many years Everett could arguably be considered an authority of the subject, which could only serve as a huge benefit for all involved.
Accomplished as actors Colin Morgan, Edwin Thomas, Tom Colley and Julian Wadham may be working for a first time director, but they know they are in safe hands with Everett, and it shows in their performances.
The film tastefully delivers a less is more approach to 19thcentury homosexuality. Any nudity never feels gratuitous, nor at any time does the film intend to deliver cheap titillation. There felt an honesty, seen through the eyes of a mature filmmaker.
I applaud Everett for what he has achieved, and his burning desire to never give up on this story. Oscar Wilde has clearly been a strong influence, and Everett has paid a fitting tribute.
“Love is everything,” says the playwright in the movie. And Everett’s love and testament to tenacity has certainly proved this statement in The Happy Prince.