Did you know that when author F. Scott Fitzgerald died in 1940 he believed himself a failure? That long years of alcoholism saw a heart attack claim his life at just 44? That since the publication of his book The Great Gatsby, which had received poor reviews and lack-lustre sales, he had thought his work unimportant, forgotten?
Fast-forward to 2014 and The Great Gatsbyis commonly heralded as one of the greatest works in American literature. It’s been adapted for the stage. It’s been adapted for the big screen. And the last adaption: what a show! It reminded me of a review of my debut novel, Burning Embers: ‘an epic like Hollywood used to make’ – only it’s both nostalgic and starkly current all at once.
I love BazLuhrmann’s work – most films pale against his in terms of depth and artistry. His films, for me, are sublimely romantic: Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet especially. And now Gatsby.
I could write endlessly about what I love in this sensitive, thoughtful, inventive adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, but instead I will focus in on the two aspects of the film I most admired:
- The depiction of the Jazz Age:The attitudes, the manners, the speech, the costumes, the music – oh the music! Fabulous. I was swept away into that era caught between the wars.
- The incorporation of the book itself:I loved, loved this! How wonderful to show so much respect to the author of the book on which the film is based as to incorporate the very words he wrote. The narrator’s voice is so powerful, bringing to us the words from the page – and I was mesmerised by the inclusion of text and its typography. The book is there, throughout the film: not forgotten, not a shadow. The book is all.
Overall, I think the film stands as a beautiful, respectful, celebratory testament to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s once-forgotten work. It honours this writer, and in doing so makes right a wrong. As I watched the film, I found myself wondering what F. Scott Fitzgerald would think, could he see his story brought to life in this way. Perhaps he’d raise a glass to toast it. Or perhaps he wouldn’t have needed that glass after all.