April 4, 2024
Peter Calder

The Great Gatsby: Thought-Provoking and Mysterious (2 minute read)

I first watched The Great Gatsby when I had to do a study on the book in school; not being a huge reader, I reverted to watching the film by Baz Luhrmann.

It’s a curious story that has been widely viewed and studied by many. The story has many layers and depths that the viewer finds enticing, and Baz’s portrayal of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is undeniably unique to any other film or style I have seen up until then.  

In regards to the story, it’s very captivating, covering everything from mysterious characters, class, personal pursuits and desires.

First, the setting is in New York’s Long  Island in the 1920s. Just from that, it sets up an intriguing story. The roaring 20s in America is a widely popular timeframe and setting we often love to look back to and explore. Within this place, we are shown all ranges of the classiest society, from old money luxurious inherited estates with countless maids and staff to new money self-made business types, to people living in severe poverty in the “Valley of Ashes” which depicts a dark place that no matter how hard you work you can’t leave or move up in the world.

All these themes and attributes can be carried over and related to the society we live in today. I think another aspect people are drawn to is Gatsby’s character himself.

His character is very mysterious, and it shows what he is willing to do to pursue his desires, in this case, Daisy. Using Nick Carraway’s character as the narrator was critical, specifically in two instances. Setting up the story at the beginning, Nick’s narration effectively details the world we’ve been thrown into.

Secondly, in the ending (spoiler alert), his narration keeps the viewer on track with the countless mismatching of various story developments. Mr. Wilson’s character mistakes Gatsby for Buchanan, killing Gatsby. This leaves the audience in awe over Gatsby’s financially successful yet very emotionally unhappy life being short-lived. Then, there’s the funeral, which no one shows up for, and Daisy goes off with the seemingly undesirable character of Mr.  Buchanan.

The story itself is rich with a large range of emotions depicting people’s problems and flaws while showcasing their deepest desires and pursuits for happiness.  

What sparked my interest in writing about this film was that I recently watched Baz’s more recent film, Elvis, featuring Austin Butler, and there are so many nuances and connections between  Elvis and The Great Gatsby. There’s a scene in The Great Gatsby when Tom takes Nick and  Myrtle into the city, and we are shown the beautiful details and vibrant life of the city through jazz music, people dancing, and instruments. This scene is then echoed in Elvis when he travels to Club Handy on Beale Street and is overwhelmed by the music and lively nature.

Other similarities between the two films include the way the shots are depicted using fast shutter speeds and quick shots filled with vibrancy, which makes the audience feel overwhelmed by the energy of the scenes. In The Great Gatsby, it doesn’t feel like the filmmaker is trying to make the world realistic or natural; it is quite clearly a magical world that we are peering into. This is thanks to the way Baz likes to film, the colours, and the sparkly nature of the way the film is shot, which create something unique.

When I first watched The Great Gatsby, I didn’t like the “fake”  nature of how it felt; almost every shot was noticeably been VFX treated or shot on a green screen. But, of course, this was all on purpose, and now I can appreciate how this was to help drive the manic nature of the plot and to help drive different emotions onto the viewer, such as larger-than-life moments and the magical world that existed in this place.

One more detail I did appreciate in the film was that it wasn’t a happy ending; Gatsby’s life was smeared in the headlines for being a murderer, which, of course, isn’t the case and is a great full-circle moment depicting another disdainful aspect of our society which is media prosecution and portraying the truth.