Blogging the Bookshelf

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Statement of Views: Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby

May 23rd, 2012 · No Comments · regular

I don’t usually use this Tumblr as a forum for commentary, but I can see from the reaction to the release of the trailer of this movie that I need somewhere to put my views on this on the public record.

The below was originally posted at a now virtually extinct social media site when this project was first announced. The trailer confirms my views…

As a massive fan of both Gatsby and Luhrmann (mostly) I think this is an ideal match. 

Fundamentally, “The Great Gatsby” is melodrama. It’s all over the top emotion, extreme actions and highly contrived plot development. Frankly, the prose is often so descriptively florid that it would border on the comical outside an ‘American classic’. 

This is what Luhrmann does best. His best movies (R&J, Moulin Rouge and Strictly Ballroom) are all over the top, visually intense cavalcades of emotion and melodrama. He’s less good at story telling/script writing, but working from Gatsby as subject matter, he’s got a pretty solid base to start from in this respect. 

To illustrate my point, take a passage like the below from the book, in the lead up to Gatsby and Daisy’s first kiss: 

“His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed for him like a flower and the incarnation was complete.”

Then consider the climactic romantic scenes of R&J and Moulin Rouge – the aesthetic is hand in glove. (In fact from memory, doesn’t Ewan McGregor actually jump up and touch a star while trying to seduce Nicole Kidman?)

I think a lot of the pre-backlash against Luhrmann directing this project is fans of Gatsby having to face up to the true nature of the book. There are lots of people who claim it as their ‘favourite’ book as a pitch to sophistication. As such, they project ‘sophisticated’ characteristics onto the book ie subtly, deep human insight etc, when they are really not there.

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