Debbie Wiseman has composed over 70 scores for film and television. Wilde is her second collaboration with director Brian Gilbert, the first being Oscar-nominated Tom and Viv. Other credits include Lewis Gilbert's Haunted, Peter Kosminsky's The Dying Of The Light, Susan Streitfeld's Female Perversions, The Missing Postman, The Good Guys, The Upper Hand, A Week In Politics, Children's Hospital, The Churchhills, The People's Century, Little Napoleons, Is It Legal?, Death of Yugoslavia, Shrinks, The Second Russian Revolution, The Gettys, It Might be You, Making, Health & Efficiency, Loved By You, Bloom, Time Riders, Postcards From The Edge, Hiroshima - The Decision To Drop The Bomb, Incident In Judaea, The Cuban Missile Crisis, Vet's School and Mirad - Boy From Bosnia.
Debbie has received and been nominated for numerous awards, having won TV Theme Music of the Year for The Good Guys in the 1993 Tele-vision & Radio Industry Club Awards, and Best Original TV Theme Music in 1991 for Shrinks in the Silents to Satellite Awards. Debbie was nominated for the Rank Film Laboratories Award for Creative Originality in the 1994 Carlton Television Women In Film and Television Awards, as well as for Best Commissioned Score from a TV Production in the Ivor Novello Awards and the 1996 Royal Television Society Awards for Death of Yugoslavia.
Debbie has been featured on Radio 3 on The Music Machine and Every Note Paints A Picture, as well as presenting Backtracks - a Channel 4 series examining the role of music in film and television.
WILDE - THE STORY
It is almost exactly 100 years since the tragic events which led to the downfall
of Oscar Wilde, the world famous author and playwright.
Just a few years before the publication of The Picture of Dorian Gray, the novel that had brought Wilde to an even wider audience, Oscar married the stunning Constance Lloyd. They had two sons and, outwardly, the perfect life. That is until one evening in 1892 when Wilde was re-introduced to an Oxford undergraduate whom he had briefly known, Lord Alfred Douglas known as "Bosie." It also happened to be the first night of Wilde's Lady Windermere's Fan. Amidst all the acclamation and adulation, Wilde fell for the dashing young Lord and so the stage was set for the troubled and ultimately appalling scenario that followed.
Although happily married to Constance, Wilde's deepening homosexual feelings for the amoral Bosie came to the surface with a passion and power that surprised even Wilde himself. He loved his wife and children dearly, yet they were increasingly neglected. In an outwardly moralistic and almost puritan Victorian society, all might have stayed as it was; however, Bosie's eccentric, maniacal, but extremely powerful father, The Marquis of Queensbury, decided that enough was enough - he would put a stop to his son's affair with London's greatest playwright. Queensbury stormed into Wilde's London club just days after the opening of The Importance of Being Earnest, and in his absence left a card, "To Oscar Wilde posing Sodomite"(sic). Whether Wilde would have left it at that we will never know. Bosie, who despised his father, urged Wilde to sue Queensbury for libel. As homosexuality was illegal at the time, the decision to sue seems foolhardy in the extreme. The results were inevitably disastrous. Wilde lost the case, as most knew he would, and following his subsequent conviction for the "crime" of homosexuality was sentenced to two years hard labor, part of his sentence to be served within the Dickensian confines of Reading Gaol.
During this extremely difficult time, Wilde wrote two highly acclaimed works, both all the more remarkable considering the circumstances in which they were written. The Ballad of Reading Gaol marked Wilde's long awaited return to poetry, and has a power and depth that staggers the imagination. Wilde dedicated it not to someone he actually knew, but as a remembrance of a young soldier imprisoned in Reading Gaol at the same time as himself, though it is known that neither of them exchanged one word. The Soldier had been convicted of murdering his own wife and was hanged on July 7, 1896. Then there was De Profundis, which must rank as one of the most astonishing prose works to be published in the last 100 years, and was written by Wilde in an attempt to break Bosie's hold over him.
After Wilde's release from prison in May 1897, he fled abroad, never to set foot on English shores again. He had already been denied access to his sons, Cyril and Vyvyan, by court order, and they were living abroad with their mother. Constance died suddenly in April 1898 following spinal surgery, and although Oscar rushed to Genoa to visit her upon hearing of her illness, he was too late. His attempt to rekindle his relationship with Bosie also ended in failure. They lived together briefly in Naples before their final parting. Wilde moved on to Paris, where he spent his final days. Having been christened in the Protestant faith, Wilde was eventually baptized into the Catholic Church.
Oscar Wilde died in 1900 in a small but comfortable hotel in the Latin Quarter of Paris, with his devoted and loyal friend, Robbie Ross, at his bedside. It was in this room that Wilde reportedly uttered his final words: "Either that wallpaper goes...or I do!" He was just 46 years old.
The doomed love affair and tragedy of Oscar Wilde has fascinated generations in the years since this tragedy played out across the capitals of Europe. Preceding versions of the story, be it on small or larger screens, have usually been constricted by the censorship confines of the times. Constance has more often than not been shown as a mere spectator, yet as is now patently obvious, her story is of equal importance to Bosie's. Now towards the end of the Twentieth Century, the story can be told as it really happened, and with Stephen Fry as Wilde, a role he was surely born to play.
Brian Gilbert's quite remarkable film is the one that against which all other versions of the story must be measured. A film as complex and honest as Wilde depends on a literate and understanding script and Julian Mitchell has adapted superbly Richard Ellmann's original story Oscar Wilde, beginning as it does with one of Wilde's lecture tours of Canada and concluding with his eventual release from prison and his final, and fateful, reunion with his lover, Lord Alfred Douglas in Italy.
Unquestionably Wilde is the most honest and uncompromising story so far of this tortured artist's life and work, with some of the most revealing scenes about his private life yet to appear on the screen. Though it will undoubtedly shock some, the sexual content of Wilde is depicted with rare compassion and subtlety, with an almost un-comfortable eroticism combined with a quiet yet unemphatic tenderness.
The film-makers' determination to depict a fairly balanced view of Wilde's relationship with both his wife and children, as much as his friendship and love for Bosie, is very successful, a credit to both screenwriter Julian Mitchell and director Brian Gilbert. The film requires its star to be on screen for much of the time, and Stephen Fry gives quite a remarkable, and, yes, memorable performance in the title role. Equally effective are Jennifer Ehle as Constance and Vanessa Redgrave as Oscar's mother, Lady Speranza Wilde.
But it is the destructive love and obsession with Bosie that forms the central core of the film. Newcomer Jude Law is again ideally cast in this role. Wilde's greatest and most loyal friend, Robbie Ross, is played by Michael Sheen, who previously appeared in the BBC series, Gallowglass. Last, but by no means least, the film has a distinctive and memorable musical score composed, orchestrated and conducted by Debbie Wiseman.
Wilde reunites her with producers Peter Samuelson and Marc Samuelson, as well as director Brian Gilbert, for whom she wrote the music for Tom and Viv starring William Dafoe and Miranda Richardson.
Debbie Wiseman's outstanding and quite moving score is as intricately part of the film's texture as Stephen Fry's finely tuned performance, Nic Ede's superb costume designs and Michael Bradsell's carefully paced editing. This is how it should be of course, but sadly it happens all too rarely. Certainly this must be her most ambitious project to date, and she has approached her task with all the expertise and assurance of a trusted veteran. Utilizing large orchestral forces with quite stunning ability, her thematic material has not been swamped by the size of orchestra at her disposal. Indeed, she has imaginatively opted for oboe solos delicately performed by Dick Morgan and highly effective piano solos by Andrew Bottrill and Debbie Wiseman herself. Combined with Martin Fuhrer's immaculate photography, Debbie Wiseman's music is not an adjunct to the film, it is another key component.
What strikes one about the score for Wilde is its sheer lyrical beauty with gorgeous string textures, not a coincidence as Debbie explains. "Oscar Wilde was obsessed with beauty and one of my aims was for the score to be beautiful - using melody as a vital ingredient throughout. Wilde was shunned for his homosexuality and remained an outsider and very little is known about his secret life. The film sheds light on his marriage to Constance, and in composing the Constance theme I remembered her strength of character and loyalty to Oscar. Her music needed to underpin her love and finally her bravery when the truth became evident to her. Bosie has a tremendous hold over Oscar and the inspiration for their music was the incredible passion and madness of their relationship, and most importantly, their very real love."
Wilde is a powerful love story in which there are no winners, only losers. The music lives outside the parameters for which it was written, a not inconsiderable achievement, and it is no doubt a major development in Debbie Wiseman's career and, as with all of the best film scores, time alone will reveal this to be one of the very finest ever written for what is a very fine motion picture.
John Williams, Editor, Music From The Movies
with thanks to Peter D. Kent