‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.’
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby is easily one of the best books I have read and loved for its literary richness. And needless to say, the movie, in focusing entirely on the events, has miserably failed in capturing the essence of the book. ‘The Great Gatsby’ is an engrossing read because of its witty word-craft. The book also has venerable nuggets of wisdom scattered throughout as the story progresses. The first attribute is indeed difficult to portray through a visual medium. But how can one forgive the complete absence of the latter aspect?
I read the book before watching the year 2013 version of the movie, but knew that Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jay Gatsby. Perhaps this is the reason why, about mid-way through the book, DiCaprio assumed the role in my mind’s version of the Fitzgerald classic as well. It was effortless for him to slip into the Jay Gatsby of my imagination. Only he could have pulled it off. I have admired his portrayal of several characters across movies, and this might have assisted the transfer of his body language and mannerisms to my Gatsby. And there was perfect resonance between the two.
The day I closed the book, with much adoration for the author and notes filled with deeply meaningful quotations from various characters, I sat down to watch the movie. I agree that it was a treat for the eye. But sadly, the only good thing about the adaptation was Leonardo DiCaprio. Everything and everyone else were misfits in the movie. The movie was boisterous. Daisy was beautiful but the film’s version of her character was significantly different to how I had imagined her to be like. The Daisy in my mind was charming in a homely way, she emanated slightly more domestic warmth. She did not seem as laid off in my head as was shown in the movie. My Nick was certainly way better than the one played by Tobey Magguire. For starters, my Nick carried about a certain worldly wisdom, unlike the Nick from the movie who is almost a teenager. After all Nick Carraway is the narrator, he put the story down. All those observations, carrying layers of meaning, are products of Nick’s intelligence. It was Nick who delivered the best line in the whole story, “They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together.” Nick Carraway’s character has the most intensity and intellectual abundance in the book, and the movie has no signature of either of these.
A very important insight the book provides is into the segregations and turmoils under the seemingly well-off American society. It grabs and puts to raw display the wealthy American league, which explicitly prefers to stay classified into historically rich and newly-rich.
Personally, The Great Gatsby came to me in the nick of time, when I was reeling under the discomfort of lost contentment in one sphere of my life. I kept committing the mistake of trying to relate every new experience to an old one, trying to reconstruct the exact scenario and emotions of a past phase; precisely what had lead to the doom of Gatsby. The book shook me by the shoulder and put sensibility back into my head, reminding me in a simple manner to live with arms open to the future.
A twenty something feeling her way through life.