Luhrmann and The Great Gatsby are the perfect marriage!
From the opening credits, Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby can only be described as an epic adventure through a tale of an “incorruptible dream” and inspirational hope, set in the seductive backdrop of the nineteen twenties. Luhrmann lends himself completely to granting you access to this riotous lifestyle where the parties are magnanimous and luxurious. He conjures similarities to an old, elitist university shindig and the hedonistic goings-on that occurred behind closed doors; a glimpse inside a superficial and beguiling world of pretentious glamour. Just as F.Scott Fitzgerald takes you on a revolutionary journey of the jazz age and its grotesque underbelly, so does Luhrmann!
One of the most common criticisms that seems to plague Baz Luhrmann‘s grand re-telling is his elaborate computer generated marvel. The reality is, he is a director of immense vision so an elevated version of the classic novel should be expected. In fact it would be rather disappointing if it were not; dreary and soft has already been done in Jack Clayton’s 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Although an impressive performance by Farrow, and a brilliantly brooding image of Redford, this Gatsby fails to move its audience in the same way. Admittedly, this is due in part to the limitations of technology, but mostly because it fails to effectively capture the alluring nature of the era, by placing an over-emphasis on romanticism.
How could such a story of majestic history not be told alongside a technological element? The twenties was, after all, a time that excelled far beyond its years; the age of social advancement and modernity; an area of which technology was a strong-hold. It was therefore perfectly practical to introduce a 3-D cinematic experience to invigorate the senses. Cleverly, this mirrors the multiple dimensions attributed to Fitzgerald’s characters; Gatsby in particular! If there were any decade in history to have such an ostentatious production, the twenties is more than deserving.
If experiencing the literary original climatically brought to the big screen is not motivation enough for seeing The Great Gatsby, perhaps the spectacle created through fashion is reason enough. The cinematic union of Luhrmann and his exceptionally talented, costume and production designer wife Catherine Martin, burst to life on the screen and in fabulous excess. The attention to detail is awesome!
The Great Gatsby made use of a number of significant and luxurious brands; the product placement served its purpose in highlighting a decadent lifestyle, yet discreet enough not to overwhelm. Martin worked with Muiccia Prada and revived an archive of pieces dripping in diamonds, encrusted with crystals and gorged in gems. The costumes alone were presented as a dazzling parade of elegance, which helped carry the glamorisation of the story; particularly with the audiences’ perception of Daisy Buchanan.
Somewhat unfairly, Carey Mulligan‘s predecessor’s Mia Farrow, gave a performance that firmly sealed her position as the ultimate Daisy Buchanan. Farrow reflected her carelessly ignorant disregard for people and objects beautifully, and with such sweet grace too. Mulligan was simply sweet, displaying a childlike complacency. It was unfortunate that Luhrmann played down the ignorance of Daisy, which was so vehemently implied in Fitzgerald’s classic.
With Farrow, a stronger and more apparent dichotomy was reflected. She embodied the same delicate and girly nature, but was also selfish and cruel, manipulative and unkind in her love. Interestingly enough, Luhrmann has his Daisy refer to herself as a “brute”, as well as to Tom, further echoing the novels’ labeling of the pair being “careless people, [who] smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back to their money…and let other people clean up the mess they had left behind”. Joel Edgerton played this sentiment to perfection! And was frighteningly convincing in his portrayal of a ruthless hedonist.
The most successful translation of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby is that he seamlessly illustrates what makes Gatsby so ‘great’. This is a question that the audience instinctively responds to, enabled by Luhrmann’s clear direction; a book should inspire your imagination, whereas a film presents imagination! There really isn’t a singular answer to Gatsby’s greatness, it includes his self-made rise to success and astute business acumen as a reason, yet the most resounding explanation derives from his unshakable devotion to his love. Despite her unworthy nature, Gatsby’s self-less love for Daisy is truly hopeful and unconditional. At the time of publication you can almost imagine people saying: “they just don’t make them like that anymore!” An indisputable truth that Luhrmann has replicated in his Gatsby for us today.
Fitzgerald, in his wonderfully compelling way with words, stirs compassion and adulation for Gatsby in the reader. We are blurred from any feelings of pity or indifference, and blinded by this notion of a romanticised hero. Luhrmann re-produces this same burgeoning empathy; ardently brought to life by Leonardo DiCaprio. Fitzgerald’s Gatsby is one of the most prolific tragic icons in western literature after William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. It is therefore no coincidence that Luhrmann would appoint DiCaprio in the role after an exceptional execution of the young Montague in his 1996 film adaptation of the romantic tragedy.
DiCaprio’s emotive performance of a man who has given everything is what makes him so great! His portrayal of a man’s suppressed desires erupting on the brink of failure, is a powerful sight. Luhrmann’s Gatsby is outstandingly convincing as the driven and overbearingly passionate opportunist. Gatsby is the American dream, rather than a mere representation! He is the two-sided coin that sits in the hands of the idealistic, constantly flipping for better odds; win today, or lose tomorrow? This is exactly the message coherently delivered by both DiCaprio and Luhrmann.
Whether you know the book or not, go and see The Great Gatsby at your nearest cinema complex! It is a transformative tale of endless hope and achievement. And if that is not reason enough, the grandiose film score composed by Craig Armstrong, and the soundtrack by Jay-Z, is musical genius and will delight music enthusiasts everywhere! It is an excellent mix of contemporary and jazz with an eclectic assortment of boldly innovative artists like Bryan Ferry, Lana Del Ray, Florence Welch and Emeli Sande; advancing the idea that you can in fact, repeat the past…for today!
Tell us, what did you think of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby? Have your say!