A note on film adaptations (inspired by “Gatsby”)

I’m just going to come out with it:  I LOVED Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby.”  Loved it.

Yes, I’ve read the book.  Twice, in fact.  And I saw the movie twice.  As a book lover and a film lover, I’ve been kinda disappointed in the negative responses Gatsby has been getting from all over the internet.  Yes I realize there is probably an equal amount of praise for it, but I thought I’d throw in my 2 cents.

I’m not going to expound upon the film deeply, but let me just mention a few quick thoughts on the hotly debated issues before I get to my real point.

Quick thoughts:

  • The soundtrack is amazing.  I don’t normally listen to that kind of music outside going dancing or something, but I bought the soundtrack and can’t stop listening to it.  I think the music captures the spirit of the book/film more than anything else.  It blends jazz and hip-hop, two revolutionary and controversial forms of music in their time connected with dance and party scenes.  The anachronism works, I just hope it can “stand the test of time” because it definitely “dates” the movie (ironically) in our current decade and I hope that doesn’t negatively effect the film’s lasting value.  I can see why he chose this.
  • The CGI.  I hate that they had to CGI so much.  But in a way, it worked.  It worked with the rest of the aesthetic of the film with its bright colors and exaggerated visuals so that it actually didn’t seem to stand out so much.  Though I’m not a huge fan of overdoing the CGI, I think it also went well with theme of Gatsby and the whole distorted/fake perception of reality when seen through the lens of gross amounts of money and alcohol.  I can see why he chose this.

I’ve read several negative reviews but I really still don’t understand them.  I admit, I don’t know much about the art of cinema, but I’d like to think I have good taste.  I also really enjoy Baz Luhrmann’s previous films, so maybe that contributes to my positive reception of Gatsby.  But I love the book and think he did a solid job in his interpretation.

Which brings me to my point: film adaptations are interpretations.  They are interpretations of the source material made by a director, just like the papers you write for English class are interpretations of literature; everyone’s is different.  Whether it matches with your vision of the book is irrelevant.  If you disagree, then go make your own movie version that suits your interpretation.  I assure you that not everyone will agree with yours either.

Films are works of art in their own right, and adaptations need not be criticized so harshly for straying from the source material.  I know this is an unpopular opinion, especially among book nerds like myself.  But honestly, I like having this opinion because it makes me much less angry when I see an adaptation I disagree with.

Of course all of this is easy for me to say because I actually enjoyed the movie.  In the future of this blog, I hope I can talk about adaptations in a way that attempts to ask the question:  Why did the director portray this like this?  Instead of listing all the the things I disagree with, I hope I can analyze the choices because I think this gives me a more enriching experience of both reading the literature and watching the film.

Cheers!

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