Liane Ströbel

The Great Gatsby – or a story about the danger of living too long with a single dream

Is there a better way to start „The Great Cannes Film Festival“, synonym for glamour and lavish parties, which even in times of crisis continues to nourish the illusion of everlasting wealth and opulence, than with Baz Luhrman’s version of „The Great Gatsby“?

The director of „Romeo and Juliet“ (starring the „new“ Gatsby: Leonardo di Caprio) and „Moulin Rouge“ (opening movie of the FdC in 2001, with this year jury member Nicole Kidman in the leading role) is well known for his interest in literature based plots focusing on social differences, twists and expectations. In his movies he highlights the idea of identity throughout the narrative, allowing the audience to explore their inner selves, by living vicariously through the characters on screen. Similar to his prior movies he will have to proof once more, that he is able not only to capture his audience with his emotive and colourful way of storytelling, his vibrant sets, costumes and soundtrack, combined with his fast-paced cutting, but also to make them forget, that it is obvious from the beginning, that there will not be a happy ending.

Everybody still remembers Robert Redford (❤) in the role of the very charismatic millionaire Jay Gatsby, throwing parties in order to seduce his great love Daisy, a sophisticated, but shallow, self-centred and cold hearted golden girl. His unconditional love for her persists until the end without him ever realising that she is not worth the devotion he dedicates to her. Will LdC be able to step into RRs shoes? And what significance will be attributed in this remake to the symbolic „green light“?

This polyvalent green light across the bay at the end of Daisy’s peer is not only a visible symbol of Gatsby’s love for her, but at the same time it symbolises also the physical and emotional distance between them, and the undeniable gap between their past and their future. Not even literally knocking down the clock, in order to stop the time for them at their first meeting, can prevent, that she is leading him towards everything he despises. At the end, even the symbolic green light fades into an ordinary light dot in the colour of a dollar note, underlining the fact, that their world is not ruled by loyalty and love, but by money and selfishness.

„TGG“ is a story about the ephemeral character of dreams. While the power to transform your dreams into reality is what can make you „great“, it can also easily destroy you.

Therefore, maybe the selection of this particular movie, based on Fitzgerald’s novel, for the opening of the festival, can also be regarded as a warning, similar as the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg overlooking the symbolic landscape in „TGG“. A warning not only towards the disillusioning effects that the demonstration of glamour can have upon a society, but also that our naive dreams can easily be corrupted and may come to an end without us even noticing it.

 

My favourite quotes from the novel [not in chronological order, but in a way that by reading them they reflect and support the text above]:
[1] „He smiled understandingly – much more than understandingly. It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced -or seemed to face – the whole eternal word for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favour. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely v the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey.“ (ch.3, p.48)
[2] „I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited.“ (ch.3, p.41) / „Whenever you feel like criticising anyone, just remember that all the people in the world haven’t had the advantages you’ve had.“ (ch.1, p.1)
[3] „But there was a change in Gatsby that was simply confounding. He literally glowed; without a word or a gesture of exultation a new well-being radiated from him and filled the little room.“(ch.5, p.89) / „Gatsby was overwhelming aware of the youth and mystery that wealth imprisons and preserves, of the freshness of many clothes, and of Daisy, gleaming like silver, safe and proud above the hot struggles of the poor.“ (ch.8, p.150)
[4] „All right…I’m glad it’s a girl. And I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.“ (ch.1, p.17) / „Daisy was not a Catholic, and I was a little shocked at the elaborateness of the lie.“ (Ch. 2, p.33) / „They were careless people, Tom and Daisy – they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated ack into their money and their vaster carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had ads…“ (ch.9, p.179)
[5] „I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dreams must have seem so closed that he could barely fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him (…).“ (ch.9, p.180) / „He stretched out his arms towards the dark water in a curious way (…) he was trembling. (…) I glanced (…) and distinguish nothing except a single green light, (…) (ch.1,p.21f) / „If it wasn’t for the mist we could see home across the bay…You always have a green light that burns all night at the end of your dock.“ (ch.5, p.92) / „Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us.“ (ch. 9, p.180)
[6] „He seemed absorbed in what he had just said. Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal significance of that green light had now vanished forever. Compared to the great distance that had separated him from Daisy it had seem very near to her, almost touching her, it had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects had diminished by one.“ (ch.5, p.93f)
[7] „(…)he must have felt that he had lost the old warm world, pad a high price for living too long with a single dream. He must have looked up at an unfamiliar sky… A new world, material without being real, where poor ghosts, breathing dreams like air, drifted fortuitously about…like that ashen, fantastic figure gliding toward him through the amorphous trees.“ (ch. 8, p.161)
[8] „You may fool me, but you can’t fool God! (…) …he was looking at the eyes of Doctor T.J. Eckleburg, which ad just emerged, ale and enormous, from the dissolving night.“ (ch.8, p. 159)