The Happy Prince

Dir. Rupert Everett

“I spent all my money on youth and beauty…” No, that's not the reply George Best uttered when asked by reporters what he had done with his life, but by another famous Irishman, Oscar Wilde.

This latest film focuses on Wilde's life after his release from prison, as he attempts to pick up the threads of his successful past, this time overseas, after abandoning England as it had abandoned him. The tale is overlaid against the recital of one of his short stories, The Happy Prince, one that he told to his sons as a bedtime story before the slide to imprisonment began.

Picking up on the sex part of his past comes easy to him, whilst other elements are less so. He cared for his sons and his wife, Constance, but is forbidden from seeing them. His former lover, Bosie (Colin Morgan), who was at the heart of his rapid drunken, debauched descent into oblivion, is ready to rekindle the one thing Wilde cannot live without: being loved.

This labour of love by Rupert Everett, who found the financial backing, including his fee-paying appearances, in Wilde's plays, is a richly textured, visually sumptuous affair, probably of the type Wilde would commend. The script, also by Everett, zings along with feisty verbal and physical exchanges lurking beyond the next insult. “Me or the wallpaper? One of us must go,” claims Wilde. Whether or not he spoke the words in the screenplay, it’s littered with dialogue that can be simultaneously cutting and humorous. One line is delivered twice – “He loves me in a way you will never understand” – has completely contrasting meanings, those of warmth and bitterness, when used in the different contexts.

With a fat suit and makeup that transforms his normal slim profile, Everett wheezes and shuffles across the screen with a wearisome inevitability of someone who knows what the future holds. It may not have been a phrase in use at the time, but Wilde would have surely appreciated the sentiment of “being traded in for a younger model”.

But Wilde's magnetism drew people to him like moths to a flame, and sometimes they were destroyed. Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas) played his literary manager with a pained, unrequited love, whilst Colin Firth, as Reggie Turner, reminds people that, when he’s taking time off from singing ABBA songs, he can really act.

The photography is superb in the way that the shallow depth of field accentuates the actors, and the numerous shoots from different angles create a 3D-like impression of presence.

The film mirrors parts of Wilde's life against the almost prescient fairy tale. As the Happy Prince is stripped of more and more of his assets, until only the barest shell remains, Wilde's life ends in a rundown, dirt laden room, surrounded only by a handful of true friends.

Like Best, the legend will live on for a long time to come.

Ged Camera

Into The Fade

Dir. Fatih Akin

Dianne Kruger (Katja) is present in almost every scene of this movie, holding it together in a manner opposite to her character’s inner turmoil. After dropping off her young son at her husband’s office, Katja departs for an afternoon with her sister-in-law. On her return, she finds the street ominously cordoned off as a result of a bomb that destroyed the office.

As she stumbles through unwanted necessities such as choosing coffins and standing to receive what should be condolences at the funeral service, her thoughts twist to the question: Who would do this? Could it be nefarious acquaintances from her husband’s past, contacts from his business or just the Nazi crowd, who still believe in Hitler’s ethnic cleansing?

For the first segment, festering family issues come to light, forced to the surface by grief. Katja cries herself to sleep whilst lying in her son’s bunk bed, cradling his soft toys. All the while, heavy rain falls against windows or bounces off the ground, reflecting her tears.

Almost nothing from a scene is wasted. Attention to detail is everything, highlighted in the second segment as Katja summons inner determination to see the trial of the two lovers accused of the murder.

The courtroom verbal sparring between Johannes Krisch and Denis Moschitto, who play the defence and prosecution, raises tension and anger levels that ultimately turn to vengeance.

Director and co-writer Fatih Akin has a point to make and there’s only one way that he can get to it, so the denouement seems more channelled. That shouldn’t be allowed to detract from some hugely enjoyable performances and some pertinent storylines.

Ged Camera