Another Movie Version of The Great Gatsby
by, 05-27-2012 at 02:00 AM (1197 Views)
I guess I understand why the movie industry keeps trying to put The Great Gatsby on screen. It's a great story, great memorable characters, and peaks to high drama. It's colorful, a story of bright pastels, has wonderful, direct conflict, and is deep in back story, so even though it's roughly only 200 pages of a novel, its width is years. F. Scott Fitzgerald condenses the story perfectly, a bright jewel.
So it's perfect for the movies? No matter how often they've tried - six, seven times? - it's been a disappointment. It doesn't seem to translate well to the screen. Why? Well, for one reason the novel is so great that it can never be rivaled. The novel was written and every reproduction can only be a shadow of it. But there's another reason. The great excesses of the story, of the characters, of the milieu can only be suggested by language. Once you put the excess on screen, embody them into flesh and blood actors, and create a flashy backdrop, the musical note changes. It hits off key, looks corny, becomes banal and possibly mawkish.
It's Fitzgerald's prose that gives the story credibility. How do you put this (from chapter two, a description of a wasteland just outside the city) on the screen?
Or this passage where Nick (the first person narrator) describes what makes Gatsby so alluring:This is a valley of ashes--a fantastic farm where ashes grow like wheat into ridges and hills and grotesque gardens; where ashes take the forms of houses and chimneys and rising smoke and, finally, with a transcendent effort, of men who move dimly and already crumbling through the powdery air. Occasionally a line of gray cars crawls along an invisible track, gives out a ghastly creak, and comes to rest, and immediately the ash-gray men swarm up with leaden spades and stir up an impenetrable cloud, which screens their obscure operations from your sight.
Or this passage where Nick projects the disillusionment that Gatsby must have had at the end:He smiled understandingly-much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole external world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself.
And still one more, Nick's reflection of the Gatsby story as it fit into an uniquely American experience:He must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, paid a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky through frightening leaves and shivered as he found what a grotesque thing a rose is and how raw the sunlight was upon the scarcely created grass. A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about...like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees.
That rhythmic prose and that glorious imagery just can't be captured in film. Fitzgerald studied Joseph Conrad's prose so diligently, and here the student surpassed the master, at least in this novel.Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors' eyes-a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby's house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.
So there's going to be another rendition of the movie. I believe it's going to be out around Christmas. The trailer is out. See what you think:
That is horrible. That is garish, and not even remotely in a good way, if it's possible for garish to be conceived to be good.
There's a line that the movie version has Daisy say. It's at 1:17 minutes into the trailer. "You always look so cool."
I can assure you F. Scott Fitzgerald never wrote that line, could never possibly consider writing that line, and is probably turning over in his grave over that teenybopper line. The whole movie from this trailer strikes me as juvenile.
Now it may be that the movie is better than the trailer, but that would be unusual.