“The Great Gatsby”, the classic 1925 novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald has known many adaptations, including the homonymous movies made in 1974 and 2013.
In the 1974 version directed by Jack Clayton, the role of Jay Gatsby was played by Robert Redford. Mia Farrow was Daisy Buchanan, and the cast also included Sam Waterston, Bruce Dern, Karen Black, and Scott Wilson. More about the 1974 “The Great Gatsby” on Wikipedia and IMDb.
The same source material, so many similarities, such different movies. I liked them both, and found faults with both. On the whole, I was struck by the two very different orientations of focus.
In the 1974 movie, the characters are much more theatrical, built mostly of script lines and directorial indications, almost like perfectly adorned toy soldiers moved around the perfect settings. Nonetheless, I loved the fact that more characters have a voice and the occasion to reveal themselves. Myrtle, for example, is one of those characters. I also loved Sam Waterston and Bruce Dern.
In the 2013 version, the characters are built by the actors – it’s not what they say, but how they say it, their gestures, facial expressions, their eyes. Also, it helps that DiCaprio is a Scorpio, as the Gatsby in my book. As for the character of Daisy Buchanan, Carey Mulligan was terrific with that air of innocence and youth of hers in contrast with the emotion in her eyes.
Robert Redford and Mia Farrow created a totally different pair of characters, and I think that some people would resonate better with that interpretation, while others would appreciate more the newer version. Most likely, there are many viewers who have seen both adaptations and found the characters they built in their minds in neither of the movies.
What I disliked the most about the 1974 version of “The Great Gatsby” was the flattening effect of what feels like a continual self-assessing of the movie. It was as if they kept the book above the movie, so that it measured up to it, and, of course, the book always remained on top.
The 2013 movie has so much visual richness that it can feel shallow as a whole. Although I understand what Luhrmann’s vision and artistic intentions were with this movie, although I believe the goal was pretty much achieved with the majority of the audience, I was not thrilled by some elements in the movie – including the applauded choice of hip hop in order to make the 20s more “understandable” to the public today. I’ll try to formulate briefly my reason. The character of the era was stolen and replaced with an incomplete hybrid of incompatible things. Jazz and hip hop may both symbolize freedom of expression, but their vibe is different, the context in which they appeared was different, and the socially accepted ideas have changed dramatically during the last hundred years. Fortunately, there’s too much beauty on the screen to get caught in over-analyzing details. And, frankly, if it works, then everything’s fine.
I think they’re both enjoyable movies, not perfect, but distinct visions worth checking out 🙂
“The Great Gatsby” in itself is a great story. Read it, watch it, discover it, if you don’t know it yet. It’s not a classic for nothing.