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Importance of Being Earnest Book vs Movie

When novels are adapted to films, often writers and directors make changes, especially if the book was written a significant time ago. They make these changes to draw modern viewers in. Oliver Parker composed the adaption of The Importance of Being Earnest. His adaptation is accurate to the film. The only true adaptations are when he shortened the length of the play in order for viewers to sit through the movie in a single sitting. The Translation from play to book focuses more on the comedic aspects rather than a satire or a farce. The play is a consist of satirical, comedy, and romance much like the original novel.

He modernised and stressed the important scenes, not only to make them more appealing but to lengthen the play. When Jack and Algernon meet up the venue changes from Jack’s apartments to a bar.

Parker does make minor adaptations to the characters in the film Jack’s age is different in both film and book. In the book, he’s 29 and in the movie, he’s 35. The reason for the change in age was due to the age of the actor. It is said that because Parker wanted to make the ages look realistic he tweaked it to make it look closer to Colin Firth’s age. Firth fits the role perfectly because he was able to be both charming and humorous.

Adapting classic novels into books are really important, the first reason being that the story is not forgotten ad the second being that it shows the adaptability of the writing. This shows that even though the novel was written a hundred years ago, the English language remains malleable. The play looks more at dishonesty and its impacts whereas Parker took a lighter approach. Parker digressed away from Wilde’s satire approach. The setting is different, in Wilde’s novel the scenes take place in various rooms, Parker has a different approach and takes the characters outside. The purpose of his change in setting is to give the audience a view of British society during the time period.

Parker made sure to keep the majority of the dialogue the same to preserve authenticity. The story sequence remains the same, with minor tweaks that don’t change Wilde’s original message. All of the original characters are present in the film from Ms. Prism to Gwendolyn. There are a number of modern alterations that do stand out including the addition of the casino, cabaret, Lady Bracknell’s manor, and the church. Parker also includes traveling from the city to the countryside. The purpose of adding the country scenes is to create a sense of innocence and the city life brings out a sense of corruption and misleading. An example of this would be when he returns from the country he makes as if he is his brother. He does this to get away from those whom he owes money to. Scenes were also added in for the film such as Gwendolen receiving a tattoo as well as Algy’s arrest.

“When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the county one amuses other people.” (The Importance of Being Earnest, Act 1)

The movie is made up of a number of genre ranging from comedy to romance, to period drama, he also incorporates Wilde’s satiric notions. He does not steer away from the original, he only adds or tweaks certain ideas. Like the book, the movie gives a great insight into the upper class during the Victorian era. It pokes at their values and ideas as well as their bent morals in a humorous manner at times.

Personally, I am more of a visual learner, after reading the book, the movie gives me a greater understanding. The movie helped me interpret the various emotions and actions of the character in the book. The book goes into greater depth, thus making it easier for some readers to understand the humor, romance, comedy, and mockery. I enjoyed the movie and the book because Wilde and Parker both added their own unique input into their portrays. What I really appreciated about Parker’s movie was that he didn’t cut out any important scenes and dialogue which kept Wilde’s essence.

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