In the Dark

Artless Imitations

The Importance of Being Earnest
Produced and distributed by Miramax Films
Directed by Oliver Parker
Screenplay by Oliver Parker from Oscar Wilde’s play

The Sum of All Fears
Produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures
Directed by Phil Alden Robinson
Screenplay by Paul Attanasio and Daniel Pyne from Tom Clancy’s novel

Oscar Wilde believed one’s first duty in life was to be as artificial as possible.  This, he reasoned, was a corollary to the inescapable truth that nature as we know it invariably imitates art.  Paradoxical?  Not in the least.  Only provocative.  Wilde simply stated anew this self-evident thesis: We cannot see the world except through the prisms of language and numbers.  Better to acknowledge this truth frankly than to mistake the figurative for the actual.  As devoted to symbolism as he was, Wilde also realized that outworn imaginative forms could become traps barring us from new and more creative modes of thought.  Anyone who has compared Roman with Arabic numerals knows how necessary it is at times to sacrifice venerable but cumbersome tradition for nimbler means of apprehending reality.

Accordingly, Wilde’s finest work, The Importance of Being Earnest, stands poised on the knife-edge dividing nature from artifice, flesh from word. ...

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