‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ is a play that is not attached to neither a particular time period nor a certain location. Its events and characters are symbolic, and the piece is most certainly meant to be a social commentary, not a political or a historical one. It is timeless and so are the social interactions and complications that are satirized in the play (‘What wonderfully blue eyes you have, Ernest! They are quite, quite, blue. I hope you will always look at me just like that, especially when there are other people present.’- says Cecily). That fact, in my opinion, should definitely be depicted if the play was to be adapted for the screen once again.
In an unimaginable turn of events that would lead to me adapting ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ for screen, the two films giving me inspiration would be ‘High-Rise’ (2015) and ‘Metropolis’ (1927). The first one is a screen adaptation of a J.G. Ballard novel that is also focused primarily on social commentary; its director, Ben Wheatley, highlighted that in his movie by creating a neo-noir setting that feels like future imagined by people from the seventies. ‘Metropolis’ could guide me through a process of making a believable depiction of the futuristic society with all its dark, totalitarian atmosphere.
That mentioned, I would like my adaptation of the play to be set in a steampunk futuristic society, creating a mix between the days when Oscar Wilde wrote the play and an unimaginable cyber-future. As far as I am concerned, that could make it clear to the audience, that time and location are the most irrelevant things for the play. Making human hypocrisy and two-facedness the center of his piece (‘A hundred and thirty thousand pounds! And in the Funds! Miss Cardew seems to me a most attractive young lady, now that I look at her!’), Oscar Wilde would be glad to see an average reader not see those social phenomena as something attached to his epoch.
Reference: all quotations taken from Oscar Wilde, “The Importance of Being Earnest, and other plays”, Penguin Books, 1986.