The Great Gatsby and the vision of Baz Luhrman

The Great Gatsby
The Great Gatsby

I have a confession to make: I’ve never really understood what F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece was trying to say, beyond the fact that it is something of a cautionary tale. It shouldn’t be a surprise, really, as I first encountered Gatsby in my second year of high school, back when I knew almost nothing about the American Dream, much less the Roaring Twenties in which this tale is set. And watching the film drove it home for me again — the decadence, the crime, the obsession with a girl who no longer existed are all quite alien to me, facets of a people far removed from me in space, time and culture. In fact, if you asked me today, I probably still cannot give you a reasonable definition of ‘the American Dream’. And so, what I’ll focus on instead today is the director who brought this latest iteration of Gatsby to the screen: Baz Luhrmann.

Baz Luhrmann has a pretty distinctive style, which can be characterised by one word: spectacle. Take one of my favourite films of all time, Moulin Rouge — whilst I’m sure that Paris at the turn of the 20th century would have witnessed some of the insanity that was shown on the film, by the accounts of artists who depicted some of the everyday scenes, or even by looking at the lives of some people like Toulouse-Lautrec, I was always left with the sense that the film may have been more ‘over-the-top’ than the reality of the time. However, that’s probably the effect that Luhrmann goes for in his films. The Parisian undercurrent that Christian encounters and the unique style that Scott wants to bring to the ballroom are both meant to be confrontational to the sensibilities of each era, and spectacle is Luhrmann’s way of bringing that experience to us. What matters to him isn’t the realistic representation of what went on, but rather how that experience would have felt: that experience is what he wants us, his audience, to live.

I would say that the same applies for his latest film, The Great Gatsby. One of the criticisms that stuck in my head was that the over-the-top depiction of the parties that Gatsby threw, with attendees who went nuts dancing, jumping into the pool, throwing crystal and silverware everywhere for the servants to clean up the next day. I felt like I was enveloped in a world that really shouldn’t have existed… But that is precisely the effect that I think Luhrmann wanted to achieve, for the lavish parties that Gatsby threw were supposedly the wildest and most extravagant of the time. And rather than just catching a glimpse of New York in the Roaring Twenties, it felt like I was really there, experiencing the insanity. The style of Baz Luhrmann is not for everybody, or for every story, but in terms of representing what confronts the sensibilities of any time, I think he’s pretty hard to beat.

p.s. But please don’t ask me what I thought about the actors…

About karice
MAG fan, freelance translator and political scientist-in-training. I also love musicals, travel and figure skating!

2 Responses to The Great Gatsby and the vision of Baz Luhrman

  1. Fabulous! Keep it up. 😀

    Like

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