Noted People

film 2 of 3

The Trials of Oscar Wilde

Draft Review by Dean Duncan Apr 10, 2015

Extremely impressive!

Peter Finch, as Wilde, is wonderful; his portrayal goes way beyond the usual witty epithets to suggest some of the ways & reasons that he might so have slung them around; released in 1960, Trials is strikingly fair-minded & forward-looking in its attitude toward homosexuality; it’s not quite condoned, nor very much detailed in any psycho or socio or physiological way; nevertheless, by calmly, quietly, compassionately telling this very human, very tragic story, this manages to replace what might have been/might still be fear & enmity with kindness & understanding; 

Here’s a thing: what would have seemed progressive in 1960 may strike modern sensibilities as being plainly reactionary: many modern sensibilities prefer proud assertion to this somewhat hat-in-hand appeal for tolerance & courtesy; but if the film now seems cautious to the point of euphemism, it still renders Wilde’s whole decline & fall in invaluable & probably unfamiliar detail; not only that, but The Trials of Oscar Wilde is still a milestone in the evolution of this particular discussion, which is to say that real insights on the subject of gender are supplemented by tremendous historical interest;

If all that sounds too scholarly, or too partisan, then this production still has plenty for you: the moving prospect of a bright good man caught and going down for the count, while friends & family can only watch and mourn; not only that, but the aforementioned kindness and understanding are quite remarkably, quite stirringly distributed, such that even the callow young Alfred, given the hysterical masculinity of his sputtering father, is seen to have his real reasons.