Dorian or more popularly known as Pact with the Devil is a modern-day adaptation of Oscar Wilde's 1890 novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. The film adaptation was released in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada in 2004 by producers Cinema 4 Films, Inc., and Dream Rock; also under the direction of Allan A. Goldstein. The screenplay writers of this film include Peter Jobin and Ron Raley. Though much of this film relies solely on the original tale of Dorian Gray, new characters have been introduced along with additional plot twists. This film received very poor reviews under many fan-based review sites such as IMDb, and Rotten Tomatoes, and was ultimately not much of a success in the eyes of those who favor convincing actors and superb cinematography.
The adaptation's main focal point is the three characters Henry, Bae and Louis--adapted characters of Lord Henry Wotton, Basil Hallward and Dorian Gray.
In this film, we learn about a young handsome man named Louis (Ethan Erickson), who is working under an attractive blonde photographer named Bae, (Jennifer Nitsch) as an assistant. When modeling agent named Henry, (Malcolm McDowell) comes into contact with Louis he is intrigued with his natural modeling capabilities and attractive physical features and is later given the name 'Dorian' to make the original characterization of Dorian in The Picture of Dorian Gray come to life in present-day time. Henry, who is perceived to be the same Henry from the actual novel, convinces Bae to photograph Louis and to jump start a potential modeling career; though Louis actually aspires to become a photographer himself. After a few shots are taken of Louis, Henry gives him a large posed portrait of Louis himself. Henry tells him about the narrative of Dorian Gray from the Oscar Wilde novel which leads to Louis starting the persona of Dorian after he learns of the possibility of staying young forever. Louis then writes Dorian in his own blood in the mirror and thus starting the pact between him and Henry the devil.
Sybil, (Amy Sloan) is Louis's girlfriend and they are very close at the beginning. But as soon as she notices he is becoming more and more infatuated with the popularity of being a model and the riches it gains him, she becomes distant. Sybil and Louis end their relationship during the middle of a fight which leads to Louis leaving the apartment and then seduced by an attractive woman in Henry's home. Sybil comes into contact with an old druggie friend and he gives her a lethal dose of drugs. She dies later that night. Louis learns of this and instead of grieving the death of his first love, he quickly transforms into a work of art for photographers worldwide for years to come. He succumbs to sex and drugs and all the while notices how his portrait is taking the toll for his age and the physical effects of his rough life. The only other genuine love interest he has had during this time has been Bae. They form a bond and he starts to become happy once again as she spends day and night photographing him for an upcoming novel about the life of Louis--or Dorian. But Henry quickly reminds him of his immortal physique and he becomes disheartened once again.
In the midst of his fame and fortune, Dorian joins a married couple and travels to Europe. Later on, about 20 years later, he goes back and visits Henry and notices everyone he used to be familiar with has aged as they should. Louis had stayed the same age since the pact with Henry and this leaves people confused but more impressed at how he has remained so young. When he finally comes to terms and is reminded of Sybil, he goes mad and hides away in his apartment trying to manipulate his physical features by fire-- though he is unsuccessful. After Bae comes and visits himHe later learns that Bae also made a pact with Henry in which she would stay famous forever with her photography. He ultimately kills Bae and then himself after stabbing his portrait. Henry then finds another attractive male to name his next 'Dorian'.
Youth and Beauty
Both the original novel and film adaptation play off the same theme of Youth and Beauty. Through the artwork or the modern-day portrait, there is a sense of aestheticism. Beauty is seen as perfection and as something very rare in society. Henry sees this perfection in Louis and feeds off of it, stopping at nothing in order to maintain Louis in his wrath. The beauty that is projected in the portrait turns ugly as the actual source, Louis, diminishes from within and becomes hideous. It is the perfect symbol of how beauty in artwork can only be captured if the true source is beautiful itself. Louis falls in love with the idea of being noticed beyond an assistant for photographers and so naturally he becomes infatuated with the fact that his outward appearance can make him successful. When Louis is noticed by Henry as someone who could become famous and popular because of his looks, Louis falls into the temptation of being a part of this pact so that he could remain a symbol of beauty to all of his fans worldwide--forever.
Temptation and Influence
Just like in the novel, Louis (Dorian) is faced with outside influences that tempt him into this pact; although the movie demonstrates this in a more modern way. Because of the pressure to remain perfect in the eyes of the audience in order to gain fame and fortune, Louis falls into Henry's trap and is successful--but also very morally corrupted as he does not age and cannot ever form a healthy bond with anyone. Henry influences Louis to think that he deserves this fame in order to become successful in his own photography career. Louis goes mad over the satanic impact the portrait has over him and ultimately sacrifices himself to his portrait. He also faces other sexual temptation which ends his relationship with his first love, Sybil. Even after her death he never ceases to find sexual happiness through the many women he comes into contact with--a part from Bae. He also becomes tempted into drugs because it helps to alleviate his emotional trauma that came with the devilish pact. Not only is Louis affected by the pact with Henry, Bae also succumbed in the temptation of gaining fame and fortune from her photography indefinitely.
Expectations from Society
There would not be pressure for beauty and temptation if there were not certain expectations from society that Louis must meet. In the film, physical beauty was much sought after in order to gain popularity in modeling. The pictures were displayed to advertise products such as cologne and albums. After society noticed Louis through these modes of advertisement, he was in very high demand all over the world. He was very popular in the eyes of photographers and he was expected to sell product with his looks. Not only was he expected in this way, he was also expected to perform sexually for his admirers; even though he was still very much in love with his first love, Sybil. He was expected to attend all forms of public events in order to keep his importance in this society. He was created by Henry in order to put on this handsome 'Dorian' persona. This became his personality and his character and he had to maintain this until he finally committed suicide due to all the emotional stress this pressure gave him.
Importance of Adaptation
Each adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray is important due to the differing ways the work decides to portray the original themes. The interesting aspect of adaptation lies at the heart of how the adapter interpreted the original novel. To take this Gothic novel and re-create it in a modern-day perspective allows more room to fully develop certain themes and details the original novel could not accomplish--such as how Bae is the female form of Basil and how Henry produced her as another "monster" who eternally becomes successful through photography. Also, the film gives more understanding of society's expectations and why Louis fell into temptation in order to meet the standards society placed on him. In our society today, physical beauty is placed very high on the hierarchy as opposed to everything else. There is physical beauty in every advertisement, book cover, and even artistic composition because the eye is attracted to aesthetic perfection and symmetry. That is what sells product. Not only is physical beauty an important dynamic in society, through the character Bae we see the desire of perfection at a certain skill in order to gain fame and fortune is also important. But she is also very unhappy, just like Louis, and she connects with him on a more personal basis because of this.
Sybil's character is also very important in this adaptation because it portrays Louis's loss of innocence. She does not personify a lowly Shakespearean actress, but rather a recovering drug addict through of Louis's support. After he loses her, his life becomes a downward spiral. The same is seen in the novel as the notable actress Sybil dies from suicide and Dorian's life is never the same. The Sybil characters symbolize the last thread of innocence that the Louis and Dorian characters have before they ultimately lose themselves to the pact.
The transformation of Louis's projection also became creepily decrepit and gave the fear-factor that the audience craved in order to see how devilish Louis became throughout his own personal transformation. Though this movie portrayed low-budget cinematography and less than worthy acting skills, the true nature of Dorian Gray and his tragic downfall was portrayed successfully.