The third trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s new film The Great Gatsby was released on Thursday and features music from Andre 3000, Lana Del Rey, Florence + the Machine, and a haunting cover of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black by Beyonce. The trailer looks great, and I think the music works really well, but there’s that little part of me that’s a little bit worried for Luhrmann. And that’s because The Great Gatsby is a great book.
Though I do love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1920’s classic, I’m definitely not it’s biggest fan. That’s not because I don’t think it’s beautifully written, disturbing, and captivating, but because there are just so many people out there who simply adore it. The Great Gatsby is one of those ‘name-dropped’ books, and I would say it’s a bit of a ‘cult classic’ except that’s so widely taught at schools, which is perhaps another reason for its popularity – I mean, sitting in an A-level class reading either The Great Gatsby or Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and it’s not hard to imagine what may prevail as ‘the favourite’.
The problem with books on film is that people not only love but live their favourite books. We know exactly what our Gatsby looks like, how we imagine his house, dreaming to attend his parties. Nobody is ever going to be able to show us the book as we know it. And, yes, that may leave many a fan disappointed because the director excluded their favourite line, or somehow you’d never pictured Jay Gatsby as looking quite like Leonardo DiCaprio. But film has such an important role to play in how we tell stories today. It is absolutely valid as a narrative, even a ‘text’ in itself, and it opens itself up to a whole new audience.
I loved Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, and I think his energetic use of colour and music will be very fitting for Gatsby’s parties. My one word of warning would be, however, don’t expect The Great Gatbsy to be the book as you loved it.