The Great Gatsby – Book vs Film

If I didn’t choose to do the American Literature module at university, I would probably have never read this book by F. Scott Fitzgerald; but I am glad I did. The Great Gatsby is a fantastic novel and is amongst my favourite books.

It is considered one of the greatest literary documents of “the Jazz Age”, encapsulating the way that the American economy soared in that initial period after the first world war, where prohibition made millionaires of bootleggers, where life was a constant party, and where morals were questionable.

It is a story about a young man, Nick Carraway, who moves to Long Island after graduating, moving next door to the mysterious and infamous Jay Gatsby.

It is semi-autobiographical in that Nick reflects Fitzgerald’s own education and move to New York, and Gatsby mirrors Fitzgerald’s attempts to gain wealth in order to win the woman he loves.

Fitzgerald’s wife Zelda famously wanted him to earn fame and fortune before she would marry him. And he did. He wrote books, and with their success came his wealth, but like Nick in The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald saw through the glitter of the Jazz Age to the moral emptiness and hypocrisy. Themes represented in the book through the decadent, lavish, wild lifestyles of its main characters.

When I heard that Baz Luhrmann was directing a new film version (I haven’t seen the others) I have to admit that I did get rather excited. He’d done so well with the adaptation of Romeo and Juliet that he must be the perfect candidate for Gatsby.

When I sat down in the cinema, just before the film started I began to doubt if the film would do the book justice. Just because Luhrmann succeeded before, doesn’t mean that he will again. Lightning, after all, doesn’t strike twice. There are so many incidences of films adapted from books that simply do not capture the emotion of the author’s original words; that do not paint a picture as vivid as the one your imagination created.

When the film started, its 3D alignment slightly off, creating fuzzy backgrounds, I questioned if I would enjoy the film. But after the projectionist corrected the alignment, and re-started it, I was captivated. Not entirely faithful to the text but none of the emotion and intrigue was lost.

It was very visually appealing. The 3D worked really well, especially with the party scenes where confetti was strewn through the air, making you feel a part of the celebration. The 3D rain effects seemed to bring that extra hit of emotion and inner turmoil.

The casting choices were excellent. Leonardo DiCaprio was on fine form as Gatsby, really capturing the suave nature of the character and his heartache for lost love Daisy, played by the beautiful Carey Mulligan.

I was a bit disappointed that Luhrmann did not develop the character of Nick, played by Tobey Maguire, and didn’t develop his relationship with the character of Jordan Baker like the book does; the focus of the film is purely on Nick recollecting his time with Gatsby. Overall though, it is a very good adaptation.

I will not articulate details of the story, and ruin that moment of discovery for you but know that both book and film are on a par with each other showing the elaborateness and decadence of the twenties with a love story that is just timeless.


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3 Responses to The Great Gatsby – Book vs Film

  1. Pingback: The (Great!) Great Gatsby | A Pertinent Riot

  2. I think I needed to have read the book… because I didn’t really enjoy the film. Glad you did. I’ve seen most of the other Baz Luhrmann films and loved them. A bit disappointed that I didn’t like this one…

    • sophie king says:

      That’s a shame you didn’t enjoy the film… Even though I enjoyed it, I will always claim the book is better. Books have a way of capturing things better I think.

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