I adore the 2013 The Great Gatsby movie. It’s one of the few places I can confidently say, *clears throat* I like the movie better than the book *villagers scream*.
(Warning: major picture overload because this movie is beautiful)
It’s not that I love the story a great deal. Yeah, when I watch it I get wrapped up in the drama, but if I just liked the story I would have stuck to the book. I adore the sets and costumes (how could you not?), but that won’t make the movie for me.
The characters are memorable, from Nick’s oblivion to manipulation to Jordan’s hilariously detached interest to Gatsby’s obsession. The casting is perfect, as well. Characters are for the story, though, and if that was all, I would have stuck to the book.
What about the music? That’s closer to what I love about it. Jack White, Florence + the Machine, JAY Z, and many others make up the backdrop of the movie. “Young and Beautiful,” Gatsby and Daisy’s theme, is perfect. Lana Del Rey’s haunting voice, the lyrics, how it can fit both Daisy and Gatsby… It’s beautiful.
In the behind-the-scenes, the director, Baz Luhrmann, talked about why he chose to have modern music as the background to the 1920s time period. In the 20s, jazz was the newest party music. A modern ear, though, wouldn’t recognize it as such. To get the same “lEt’s paRTy!!” feeling across, Luhrmann substituted hip-hop and other modern music. Now, audiences can see the author’s intention, even if it’s not translated literally.
And that’s what I like so much about this movie.
Let me explain. Only a movie can show the mood through music like this. Movie makers know that- why else would there be a soundtrack? Rarely, though, do they fully embrace what makes movies unique. The soundtrack is background music, barely recognized. Here, though, it’s front and center, as important as many of the characters for telling the story.
This shows how embracing your storytelling medium, in all its uniqueness, can birth magic. You can’t tell a story the same way through a book as you can through a movie, or through a graphic novel, or a play. Luhrmann recognized this when he chose to not present the settings (like the music) or the facts in the exact same way as the book, but conveying the themes more clearly than if he’d translated literally. Recognizing that is what I love about The Great Gatsby.
So, what does this mean? How does this help you write your story?
It should show that the way you choose to tell your story is important. You made a choice to tell your story through a certain medium; now embrace that choice! Prose writers: you can go so deep into your characters’ psyches! Screen writers: you have such power through visuals and sound!
Figure out what makes your medium unique, and you’ll discover how to tell your story in the best possible way.
And now, a toast to you, for writing. And a toast to The Great Gatsby, for being written!