The Importance of Being Earnest

In the 2002 film adaptation of The Importance of Being Earnest, featuring Rupert Everett and Colin Firth the director set the┬ástage of the cigarette scene at what seems to be a social gathering. The written script sets the setting at Algernon’s flat, a single story house or apartment arranged with a table prepared with sandwiches and afternoon tea that Lane has prepared for expected visitors. The written script also stages this scene with piano playing in the background. The movie sets this scene in a party like setting with additional guests whereas the script only has Algernon and Jack in the scene. We don’t see the table that Lane had prepared nor is there a piano playing in the background.

The next notable difference is the inconsistency of the film to follow the script. We first notice this when comparing the very beginning of the written script to the film. In the written script this scene of the cigarette case begins:

Algernon. It isn’t. It is a great truth. It accounts for the extraordinary number of bachelors that one sees all over the place. In the second place, I don’t give my consent.

In the film it begins:

Algernon: I certainly cant see you and Gwendolyn getting married
Jack: Why must you say that
Algernon: Well in the first place I haven’t given my consent

When the discussion of the cigarette case comes into question, in the film the cigarette case is retrieved by Algernon himself pulling it out of his pocket. On the written script, the cigarette case is handed to Algernon by Lane. As the characters continue to discuss, in the movie they begin to smoke cigarettes from the cigarette case. In particular, Algernon get’s his cigarette lit by a woman sitting next to him on a couch. This is the same as the written script except that Lane appears to be a servant and in the film she appears not be based on her costume. She also is said to enter and leave the stage in the written script and in the film she remains on set.

In the background of the film there are extras, of which all make a reaction when Algernon asks Jack about Cecily, in fact, we can hear all of them chuckle at Jack’s answer.

I think film makers and actors make changes they deem appropriate so that they can successfully convey characterization of characters and to provide more dramatic impact to scenes. Sometimes its necessary to change words here and there or omit them to convince viewers of a character. Perhaps the extras were in this film so that the viewers could also laugh at Jack’s response, while also setting a tone for the scene. In my opinion, I think this excerpt was a fair representation of the written script. It provided a visual for the characters of Jack and Algernon but failed to adequately represent Lane.

One thought on “The Importance of Being Earnest

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