Adaptations of “The Great Gatsby”

Adaptationsof “The Great Gatsby”

Theimportance of literary works cannot be gainsaid as far as educatingand entertaining their readers or audience is concerned. Indeed,literary works have formed a fundamental component of thecontemporary human society and have been used in passing a message tothe viewers and readers regarding the societies in which the authorsor creators of the works live. This is usually aimed at critiquingthe ways of life in those societies and imbuing in the viewers andreaders an idea pertaining to the manner in which they can changethose aspects and create a better society. It is, therefore, nowonder then that some of the most fundamental social changes havebeen triggered by the ideas incorporated in literary works. On thesame note, it is noteworthy that there are themes that are alwaysrecurring in literary works such as romance, greed, jealousy andmurder. The recurrence of these themes may have resulted from thefact that societies never really change or take quite a long timebefore some fundamental aspects are eliminated. Indeed, this wouldexplain why literary works created even centuries ago could still beapplicable in modern day societies. This has allowed for therecreation and adaptation of literary works in forms different orsimilar from the original without necessarily changing the content orthe message. This was the case for the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel“The Great Gatsby”, which in spite of the long time that haspassed since it was originally produced, the subsequent adaptationshave still incorporated the same theme irrespective of the change informat. Nevertheless, it is evident that the adaptation of a novel toa movie, irrespective of the time period, adds many unnecessaryelements while being incapable of depicting crucial aspects in thestory.

“TheGreat Gatsby” was a story narrated by Nick Carraway, a young Yaleand WW1 veteran who has taken a job as a bond salesman in New York.He is a neighbor to the wealthy Jay Gatsby who frequently holdsparties but never takes part in them. Eventually, Nick is invited toone of the parties where he meets other characters important to thestory such as Daisy Fay Buchanana, and Tom Buchanan her husband whois Nick’s college acquaintance, and Jordan Backer, an attractiveyoung lady to whom Nick is attracted. At a subsequent party Nick andGatsby meet and they recognize each other as they had served in thesame division in the war. Nick later realizes Gatsby had a romanticencounter with Daisy during the wartime that he aims at rekindling inspite of the fact that she is already married. In fact, theextravagant parties are actually aimed at impressing Daisy and havingher rekindle their relationship with Gatsby. At this time, Gatsbyaims at using Nick to arrange a reunion with Daisy, which Nickeventually manages to do. Initially, Daisy and Gatsby are discreetabout their relationship. They, however, become less discrete in thedays that come to the extent that Daisy’s husband suspects thatthere is more than friendship between the two. As expected, Tom isoutraged despite the fact that he has Myrtle as his mistress, andtells Gatsby that he and his wife have a history that Gatsby willnever comprehend. He tells Daisy that Gatsby’s wealth emanates fromcriminal activities such as bootlegging alcohol. Eventually, George,Myrtle’s husband, shoots Gatsby and commits suicide after herealizes that a yellow car that had killed her belonged to Gatsby. Hefalsely believes that the owner of the car must be Myrtle’s lover.Nick is forced to end his uneasy relationship with Jordan afterstaging a funeral for Gatsby and relocates back to Midwest afterbeing disillusioned with lifestyle in the Eastern side. Basically,this is the storyline that all the adaptations follow irrespective ofthe formats that they take.

Inthe two movie adaptations of the novel, varied differences emergeboth between the adaptations themselves and the original text. Ofcourse, it would be normal to see the two as mimicking the original.In fact, the adaptations come as an interpretation of “The GreatGatsby” by Scott Fitzgerald (Pinkerton 66). The similarities in thetwo movies may have emanated from the fact that they have the samebook as their basis, with the same characters and same story. One ofthe similarities that the two movies had was their depiction of thedull and secluded lives that the actors led, alongside the many opensecrets. Indeed, they both concentrated on selling Gatsby perhaps tothe detriment of the other characters despite the fact that othercharacters such as Nick Carraway were fundamental to the developmentof the story and the plot. In the 1974 movie adaptation, however, theGatsby character (as acted by Robert Bedford) seemed complacent andcalm with regard to everything that was happening in his life. Thiswas in contrast to the 2013’s movie adaptation Gatsby character asacted by Leonardo Dicaprio, where he came out as outgoing and open asopposed to living a secluded and secret life. In addition, there wasa variation with regard to the aim that the 1974 and 2013 movies wereaimed at achieving (Pinkerton 66). A close examination of the twomovies would reveal that the 1974 version had the primary purpose ofenhancing the comprehension of the characters and their traits, whilethe 2013 movie aimed at depicting the reality pertaining to thethings that the characters did (Stone 77). This would explain why the2013 Gatsby was primarily focused on emotional release, while the1974 version explored the manner in movements and reactions of theactors to the different situations. For instance, in the 2013version, the actors would categorically state how they felt. This wasseen when Nick Carraway became frustrated with Gatsby after thelatter had “killed” Tom’s mistress Myrtle, Nick did not hidehis emotions and anger at the action. This made the character comeout as more real than in the previous movie adaptation. Similarly,there were variations in the manner in which the two presented theparties. Of course, the difference could have been as a result of thevariations in the times and audiences that were targeted (Polan 397).It goes without saying that the audience in the 70s was completelydifferent from that of the 21stcentury, in which case the party scenes had to be more modern in thelater. However, this should not have resulted in the quality of theparties. Indeed, the 1974 movie presents the parties in a morebelievable manner, unlike the 2013 version. Redford’s version(1974) comes as more realistic, taking the nature of a documentary ofthe 20s, with the use of appropriate music and costumes from the sameera. Indeed it comes off as considerably straightforward in bringingout the story of two lovers, as indicative of the era’s filmconvention. The matter-of-factly nature and realistic depiction ofthe events and people may be contrasted with the sumptuous andhyper-stylized and largely unrealistic 2013 version (Polan 398).

However,some elements of the novel do not allow for comparison on ascene-by-scnee basis particularly with regard to the narration. It isnoted that in the novel, the story is narrated retrospectively in thepoint of view of the first person without any regard to the impliedreader and providing the unique impression that what the readerencounters is narrated as a written account of the writer’sexperiences. It has been well acknowledged that any filmmaker thatseeks to adapt this novel or any other works must determine how he orshe will represent this element in the film (Hutcheon 69). More oftenthan not, scholars have deemed the utilization of voiceovers asdisruptive since it tends to eliminate the focus from the visual. Itmay also be noted that material that is psychological and internalcan be extremely difficult to dramatically express in film, in whichcase the filmmaker is left with little choice other than to leave outthe narration in its entirety to the detriment of the story or,alternatively, use voiceovers, thereby potentially hurting thevisual.

Thetwo movies have adapted the novel in different ways particularly withregard to the adaptation of the first person retrospective narration.In the Clayton and Coppola (1974) version, the traditional route ofvoiceovers is used rather sparsely in the episodes that are notcritical so as to avert the possibility of eliminating the actionfrom the screen while keeping Nick at the core of the narrative,thereby sacrificing the psychological description. On the other hand,Luhrmann and Pearce’s 2013 version have combated the problem byincorporating flash-forward scenes where the viewers have to grapplewith the view of Nick who has been committed to a sanatorium afterthe occurrences of the novel, with numerous emotional problems, aswell as severe alcohol issues (Pinkerton 66). The flash-forwardscenes provide Nick with an opportunity to retell his experiences tothe therapist, and splices together with the story. A smoothtransition is created from the flash-forward scene to the voiceoveras the sound of Nick engaging his therapist and reading from hismanuscript trails to the subsequent scenes.

Inaddition, the two films are different in the manner in which theyportray the comedy incorporated in Fitzgerald’s novel. Scholarshave noted that Clayton and Coppola’s version is preoccupied withattempts to be taken seriously while the Lurhman and Pearce’sadaptation retains a large number of the comical elements pertainingto the novel. However, none of the two adaptations manages to depictthe more subtle satirical elements pertaining to the original textwhere the author incorporates wit so as to convey some seriouscritique of the society (Pinkerton 66). A case in point would be whenFitzgerald describes some of the dancers in Gatsby’s party as “oldmen pushing young girls backward in eternal graceless circles”(Fitzgerald 47). This line sums up the author’s attitude to theceaseless nature of capitalism and greed.

Moreover,there is the difficulty in the depiction of the aspects such as theweather, which is an overarching feature that is followed by the paceof the story. It is noteworthy that Nick, according to the novel,gets to West Egg in spring while the plot gains momentum when thespring turns to summer. Of particular note is that the story climaxesin the warmest day of summer (Fitzgerald 109). Further, when it isclear that the ambition of Gatsby will not be fulfilled, the weatherbegins turning gloomy and turns to autumn upon the death of Gatsby.This is, undoubtedly, one of the most difficult elements to convey inthe movies without inviting too much attention to the weather. Ofcourse, the two films seem to have attempted to invite some symbolismto the weather and make it work, something that is not satisfactorilyachieved. It is noteworthy that the weather is a determinant oftemperature, which means that the temperature would be higher inscenes that are more intense. Of course, temperature can never bedepicted in the film but its effects may be shown through thecharacters’ perspiration. In the 1974 version, Tom and Nick can beseen drenched in sweat in the very first scene, an element that goeson throughout the film (Dumenil 67). This would mean that thereexists no discernible modification of temperature even after thedeath of Gatsby when the weather becomes noticeably weaker. The 2013version incorporated some complications pertaining to theflash-forward scenes that begin during winter and end in spring. Thisbrings in another layer of symbolic weather as it slowly becomesbetter alongside Nick’s condition. However, this effect becomessomehow spoilt for the viewer since the winter scenes seeminterspersed with the core plot. It is confusing to note that theweather appears cool at the time when Daisy and Gatsby have theiraffair. However, the level of temperature seems to come through atthe 1974 film when Tom confronts Gatsby as every other characterseems to be glistening.

Onthe same note, the level of friendship between Gatsby and Nick hasvarying prominence in the movies. In the Luhrmann and Pearce’sversion, the friendship evolves into the defining feature for thefilm’s end. When Gatsby is dying and looking at the green light andthinking that his love, Daisy, is calling, it is Nick who simplywants to check up on him. Once the viewer sees Daisy pick the phone,hesitate and put is down again without making the call, it becomeclear that Nick was the only person who deeply cared about Gatsby(Stone 77). In the 1974’s version, however, the importance of theirfriendship becomes diminished after Gatsby’s death. Nick has tomake the funeral arrangements and get individuals who had been to theparties to pay their last respects to Gatsby (Cunningham 189).Unfortunately, none of them appear as they state they did not havethe time. However, Gatsby’s father attends the funeral, which turnsthe focus to the father’s grief rather than the notion that he wasproud of the accomplishments of the son.

Inconclusion, literary works play a crucial role of shaping the ideasof the society with regard to the ills and negatives of the same, aswell as how they can be eliminated. The adaptation of F. ScottFitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby” into varied films seemsto dilute the intended meanings of the author albeit in differentways and levels. This depicts the difficulty of bringing out elementssuch as emotion, weather and psychological effects of a novel into afilm.


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