I first read The Great Gatsby around this time last year, on a plane heading towards Newark via Heathrow, on the recommendation of one of my tutors at NUIG, in the spirit of If There’s One Thing You Need To Do Before You Visit Princeton, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed it (well, at the time it *was* my first pleasure read in about ten months), and ever since then, I’ve kept a close eye on the film adaptation, which will be arriving in cinemas in the next number of months.
I want to make one thing clear: I love Baz Luhrmann’s films. I honestly do (skipping Australia, I just never got around to that). My love for Shakespeare was shaped by Romeo + Juliet. Moulin Rouge! is one of my favourite films of all time, mainly because I’m a sucker for musicals and I only realised that two years ago (didn’t stop fifteen year old me play it repeatedly on DVD, however). Strictly Ballroom is sweet and romantic and has loads of wonderful dance moves and an animated sequence in the middle. And that Chanel advert, amidst the whole Why Won’t You Let Nicole Kidman Live Her Life, That Is, A Life With A Poor Hot Writer, was my first introduction to Clair de Lune and Debussy, and is generally quite gorgeous.
But after seeing the first trailer, as well as watching the recent second one, I am very concerned. The novel itself is set in a very distinct time period, just between the Great War and the Great Depression — so, in that case, you can either respect the world of the novel or go in a wholly different direction. Luhrmann seems to have taken the latter option, prompting many questions similar to the beat of ‘why can I hear Kanye West/Lana del Rey/Jack White in the background?’ (Here’s a link to an article describing his decision to go with Jay-Z as musical collaborator. I’m not sure if ‘We knew we had to unlock for the audience a way of letting them feel what it was like to read Fitzgerald’s book in the 1920s – to be in New York City at that time’ necessarily should mean LET’S PUT HIP HOP IN THE FILM.) I’m not saying that that in general is a very bad idea: it worked very well for Moulin Rouge!, which itself did not make any claims to historical accuracy, and Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette wore its anachronisms on its sleeve to great effect. But are these 3D effects, Beyoncé Knowles, and dizzying camera angles truly representative of the heart of the novel? Feel free to disagree with me, but what stands out for me is the melancholy and the deep sadness at the novel’s core — that green light, which unfortunately is rendered very garishly in both trailers. At the moment, the film looks too much like a Harry Potter film, and whereas I wouldn’t mind a guilty pleasure flick that you hate to love but love regardless despite what everyone else may say, I don’t think Gatsby deserves that.
I’d be grateful for any thoughts. I know my experience of the novel doesn’t quite encompass what everyone else may think, so: what do YOU think? In the meantime, I recommend this to pass the time.