After recently watching the film, The Great Gatsby, I was disappointed when I discovered that it didn’t have the greatest reviews due to the post modernism. Those of you who have not seen the film, and for those of you who have, here is why you should watch this film or at least give it another chance.
The novel The Great Gatsby takes place during the Roaring Twenties, a time of booming privilege and wealth. The novel presents us with a handful of central characters whose wealth allows them to buy what they want and do what they want with very few consequences— at least very few consequences for themselves.
What Fitzgerald was trying to do for his early 20th century audience, Baz Luhrmann has done the same for 21st century audience: expose the corruption and the decadence and the irresponsibility that comes with excess wealth and privilege, but where Fitzgerald was composing a modernist text; Luhrmann has composed a postmodern text, and by doing so has created a cinematic masterpiece.
The beginning of the film takes place in a therapist's office where we are introduced to Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire who is an adequate actor), the narrator of the story. He begins to tell us the story of THE Great Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio,who does a tremendous job playing his role and charming his audience).
Catherine Martin’s miraculous production design brings the story to life, while director Baz Luhrmann infuses his visuals with meaning by emphasizing that the parties, music, fashion, flashing green light at the end of the dock, and big eyes on the billboard all represent Gatsby’s motives. The bedazzling scenes and the props in the film, feel very surreal, suggesting that Gatsby’s life seemed too good to be true-- and suggesting that our economic circumstances are also to good to be true.
This film’s intellectual montage allows Luhrmann to set certain expectations: the audience wants Daisy (Carey Mulligan) and Gatsby to be together, but because of circumstances-- such as Daisy’s social class, her motherhood, and her marriage to Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton)--we understand it can’t happen. Still, Gatsby is determined to be with Daisy, and this keeps us at the edge of our seats, anxious to see what Gatsby will do in order to make this happen. This is what makes this film such a big thrill. Luhrmann does an excellent job creating such a strong emotional connection with the characters in the film that, as an audience, we want Daisy and Gatsby to be together despite knowing that it isn’t possible. This mirrors the audience's attitude towards decadence period: just like Gatsby, we want our dreams to be attainable, but a part of us knows they aren’t, and if we don’t learn how to manage our obsessions, our dreams will kill us in the end.
Many people argue that this film does not portray the early 20th century accurately, but Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby was never intended to be a historical documentary. Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was always a kind of surrealist fiction, so Luhrmann’s adaptation does not have to be realistic, because it is not real. By adding modern day music and special effects, Luhrmann is able to gain the audience’s attention and to attract them to the beautiful production design, which is what he is well known for doing in his films. The anachronisms don’t ruin the film, but make it resonate with a modern day audience.
In order to really appreciate this film, you need to not look at the film as it is, but look through it like a lens. The novel is very well known for the symbolism, and the film is the same way. Some people may be turned off by the anachronisms in this film, such as it's vaguely jazz age aesthetic with a hip hop twist. However, it’s these anachronism that help the movie make perfect sense therefore, it is a good reason to watch or re-watch this film.