General entries

The Great Gatsby 11 June 13

Section: article

Categories: Film / in-a-cinema

I know almost nothing about Fitzgerald’s writing and I don’t think I would like it. I really only know about him as a friend of Hemmingway’s, and as a contemporary of James Joyce, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound, all authors and poets I love.

I watched this movie to the end in order to find out what the point of it was, what the story was about. And anyway it was easy on the eyes, voluptuous, visually self-indulgent – entirely made with special effects. I don’t care for supposedly naturalistic films made with special effects, only films that involve invading aliens or natural catastrophes (which are no longer entertaining for me anyway in our era of environmental abuse and an increasingly unstable climate – I just witnessed some of the terrible damage of the floods in parts of Germany).

As far as I can gather from the story as depicted in the film, it is about idealized love, and the purity of its feeling, contrasted with the inauthenticity of the rest of life.

Some reviews I have read of the film criticize it for being inauthentic, shallow, two-dimensional. Now, I don’t like the film or the story, and maybe I’m being too generous about the intentions of the film-maker, but my impression is that that is the point, that the form does in fact reflect the content. A luxuriously artificial world created by decadent wealth in order to skate over harsh reality. That was the film as filmed, the cinematography, though you can hardly call it cinematography in the traditional sense of film run through a camera. It was shallow and inauthentic and visually excessive from beginning to end, serving as a foil for the real, authentic, idealized, pure love carried as a torch by Gatsby. Not that I buy into this idealized love, but I think the author of the book and the maker of the film do.

So I don’t think some of the reviewers I have read were right.

Or maybe I’m wrong. But I doubt if I’ll read the book or more reviews in order to get more clarity about that.

One element that I think supports my view is the use of the doctored photos in the film: they are the most authentic and naturalistic visuals in the movie. What I mean is: while watching it I was at first surprised at how badly the retouched, composite black and white photos of the protagonist’s faked life were. But as the film developed and some of the photos were shown, I realized that they reflected how such photos would be retouched with the technology available at that time – hence the only visual authenticity: evident forgeries of his life. If this is the case (maybe some other reviews touch on this), then it is a moderately intelligent touch by the film-maker. The reality of faked reality in faked reality. The most inauthentic character was that way because of his authenticity.

But still, it is not a movie I will watch again.

One thing that put me off about the movie and I consider even racist is how hip-hop music was used in most scenes depicting decadence.

  • Title: The Great Gatsby
  • Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
  • Writing credits: Based on the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, screenplay by Craig Pearce
  • Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joel Edgerton, Toby McGuire, etc.
  • Year: 2013
  • Cinema: Savoy Cinema, Dublin, Ireland