Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Watching "The Great Gatsby" (1974)

Sveta: It has become fashionable in modern film industry to screen outstanding works of both classic and modern literature. Unfortunately, the wish of film makers to produce a vivid reflection of what’s written doesn’t always coincide with actual results. As an example ‘The Da Vinci Code’ or ‘The Painted Veil’ can be mentioned. Well, it seems today’s film industry penetrated by all-encompassing Hollywood influence fails to go deep into the essence of literature. Maybe it has bad teachers from the past? Let’s see.
Although the after-war film industry was blooming in Hollywood, Bollywood and the like, the art of screening literature works was in the pipeline. To support the point, I’d like to refer to the screen version of Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. To begin with, the book itself made a deep impression on me. Although the end seemed to be quite predictable, it was quite challenging to watch the major characters’ manner of behavior in critical situations. The story itself seemed to be both a detective story and fiction and romance. In a word, a mixture of styles engendered a fountain of feelings and ruminations.
As to the film, it occurred somehow one-sided to me. The foundation of the film’s plot is the love triangle. So every word, every step is wrapped around the characters of Daisy and Jay Gatsby. However the book reviews other no less essential problems like American Dream (first and foremost), attempts to escape from the past, the sense of life, post-war fever and so on. Nevertheless, the film makers managed to depict the flapper fever, if I can put it that way, quite vividly. Jay Gatsby’s carnivals were shown with extreme accuracy. The pictures of drunk ladies and vulgar gentlemen bathing in the fountain made me feel disgust. The strong point of this particular episode is that the next scene presented Jay Gatsby in his room refusing to participate in the performance. I guess that was the key moment which stressed Gatsby’s unique personality.
Robert Radford managed the task perfectly featuring Jay Gatsby. It’s exactly that type of character that I drew in my imagination while reading the book: calm, dignified but showing glimpses of internal struggle. As to Mia Farrow who played Daisy in the film, I’m afraid she was too old for the role. The author gives a portrait of a still young and childish girl who constantly smokes and paints her lips red. Thus her face seemed artificially pale in comparison with red lipstick. I failed to see something like that in the film. Farrow’s Daisy looked rosy-cheeked and, in spite of that, quite bothered by Tom’s cheating on her. I didn’t think she was thus upset by the latter while reading the book. On the contrary, Jordan Baker featured by Lois Chiles turned out to be a fatal woman with low but touchy and sexy voice, young and attractive. Fitzgerald stressed that she looked somehow man-like wearing shapeless clothes and causing men little passion or any kind of that feeling. Frankly speaking, if I were a man I would fancy Jordan featured by Lois Chiles, not Daisy.
I guess the screen version of ‘The Great Gatsby’ abandons several aspects of prime importance. I would place Gatsby’s mysterious personality first and only then its impact on relations with Daisy and other characters. Daisy disappeared from the plot much earlier than Gatsby. Still we, readers, continued to learn new information about Jay even after his death. That’s why I suppose the film ‘The Great Gatsby’ can be perceived as a story of unfortunate love without reading the book. But if you’ve read the book, the film will disappoint you to some extent.

Sasha B.: I like watching films that are made on the motifs of the books I’ve read because it’s always quite interesting to compare the way I was imagining it while reading and the way it is shown in the film (in fact it is just the comparison to the imagination of the producer of the film). But unfortunately in most cases the result is disappointing me. The plot of the book is usually changed a lot and with this change something that attracts me in the book disappears. So these films would turn out to be much more interesting for me if I haven’t read the books before watching their screen versions. Nevertheless there are some exceptions and last Thursday the list of them was replenished by the film “The Great Gatsby”.
First of all, I was interested in the actors. Frankly speaking, not all of them were appropriate to their roles (from my personal point of view certainly). The actor I liked most of all is the man who presented Gatsby himself though at first I thought that I’ve imagined him in another way. But now I just can’t remember the reason for such a thought and I can’t judge objectively because he was so nice and charming… So while watching the film I was thinking about how Daisy was lucky to be loved by such a man. And not only was his appearance impressive but also the strength of his feelings. He was ready to do all he could for her sake and for the sake of being near her. It seems that his love was eternal and everybody could dream of such a feeling that never dies. But it is shown as well in the book.
Speaking about the role of Daisy, I liked the actress. Gatsby and she looked pretty well together. The only thing is that when I’ve read the book I felt that Daisy is not so light-minded and happy-go-lucky as she seemed to be. I thought that she was just pretending to be so when she was among the people. In the film Daisy was even more careless and easy-going and it seemed to me that she was not pretending. Nevertheless, I like this character (the way it was reflected in the film) because she is friendly, nice, tender and even sincere, I would say. In spite of the fact that she had a love affair with two men at the same time, I believe that she deceived nobody. The film made me sure that she loved both his husband and Gatsby and I sympathized with her when she had to be resolute and choose one of them. It was quite difficult for her, I think, because she was so defenseless. She just needed someone who would decide everything for her and be responsible for all her actions and decisions.
There were three characters to which the actors were absolutely appropriate: George B. Wilson, Jordan Baker and Myrtle Wilson (though I’ve imagined the latter to be stouter but in fact it doesn’t matter). So they were exactly the same I pictured them.
There were two other actors I didn’t like: Nick and especially Tom. Nick disappointed me just because when I saw him for the first time I thought that he was so unpleasant and suspicious. I couldn’t understand why so many people took him into their confidence (according both to the book and to the film). It seemed to me that he was not to be trusted. But a bit later when I got used to his appearance I’ve changed my mind. He turned out to be as kind-hearted, tolerant and friendly as it was in the book.
So there is only one actor left that I didn’t like at all. And it is Tom Buchanan. When I was reading the book I imagined a tall, good-looking, strong and sinewy dark-haired man. That’s the way Daisy described him: “That’s what I get for marrying a brute of a man, a great, big, hulking physical specimen of a …” But in the film he looks like a poor, unprotected and weak postman but not a sportsman.
Anyway, the appearance is not so important but the visual image of the characters is considered to be the advantage of the film. I should admit that I enjoyed the way the qualities and feelings of people were shown in the film (speaking even about Tom). Certainly there were differences between the plot of the book and the film. For example, in the film the dates of Daisy and Gatsby are shown. Besides, in contrast to the book, the film ends with the accidental meeting of Nick with Daisy and Tom that shows the indifference of them to what had happened. It seems that they have forgotten about all. I was pleasantly surprised that the producer of the film paid attention to such a small but important detail as the green light.
So, in spite of some differences between the book and the film that usually disappoint me, I enjoyed watching the film. It shows the story in a bit different way but it doesn’t detract from its merit.

Olga K.: “The Great Gatsby” ,1974, by Jack Clayton– the most famous screen version, starring Robert Radford in the title role with Mia Fattow as Daisy Buchanan & Sam Waterson as Nick Carraway, with a script by Francis Ford Coppola. It’s an adaptation of a great book written by F.Scott Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby` is a consummate summary of the `roaring twenties` and a devastating expose of the `Jazz Age`. It is an undisputed classic of American literature from the period following the First World War and is one of the great novels of the twentieth century.
It’s a common knowledge that a plot of the original book usually differs from that we see in the movie, but the plot of the film ‘The Great Gatsby’ is very close to novel itself. It’s so tragic, emotional, and sensitive to boot. All the actors were chosen masterfully: pretty Daisy (like a beautiful doll), nice, but not very handsome Nick, and so handsome and fine-looking Gatsby (I think his character was chosen excellently). The only one actor, I think, who was playing Tom, wasn’t a good choice. In the book we see fine-looking man with good body, maybe, even handsome one, but in the movie his character is quite an ordinary man, not handsome, and even weak. I guess it was a creative initiative of the director. His character was such an unhandsome man as his unbeautiful look.
Speaking about the photography and music, they are brilliant. Together with colorful costumes and amusing music we immerse ourselves in ‘crazy’ atmosphere of ‘The Rolling Twentieth’, and with the help of tragic music background we understand the intensity of the plot and feelings of the characters.
The movie is very interesting, but the only problem is the fact that it’s too close to the book and it’s a little boring to watch a known plot and predictable events. But, on the other hand, it helps to understand the novel better, to immerse you in an absorbing atmosphere of the plot, and to feel all the events by yourself.
The most sensitive episode for me was the preparation of the house before Daisy’s visit. Millions of roses, beautiful silver services – everything was so pretty, so luxurious, and so sensitive. All this was made only for her, for such a lovely Daisy. Gatsby was so nervous, and it was rather funny: he was such a self-assured man for all the people, but he behaved like a little boy when she was near to him. And the second moment which impressed me deeply was the end of the movie, the episode when Gatsby was buried. It’s not so tragically while reading it in the book, but together with a good-chosen music and masterful actors’ games it really impressed. How much people were visiting Gatsby every day, and how few had come to his burring…
All in all it’s the great movie about the Lost Generation! It’s so symbolic and exciting, without happy end, but with a deep moral!

Anna: When speaking of American movies, we usually remember Hollywood blockbusters which usually turn the books upside down so that the audience sees something completely different from what they had read. And, to tell you the truth, I expected the same of “The Great Gatsby”.And how wrong I was!
The producer not only completely preserved the script, but he also paid much attention to the details and symbols which we had discussed in class. Thanks to it I had some more food for thought and it was of much help in understanding the symbols in “The Great Gatsby”.But to tell you the truth, I had expected something more of the film. I was so much moved by the book, it has left a significant trace in my mind and soul, which cannot be said about the film, at least, it didn’t impress me so much.
One of the main reasons, to my mind, is in the choice of the actor for the main character, Jay Gatsby.
When I first saw him I thought: “That’s him!”, but the further the story unfolded the more I thought that he is not the Gatsby I had imagined. It’s only the outer looks that matched. But the behavior, the manner of talking and things in lifestyle seemed to be a bit weird to me.
And perhaps like the others I was a bit disappointed not to see the legendary Gatsby smile… Each time Gatsby’s close-up was shown I used much effort to see the face better, but all in vain; I could see no charming grin.
Concerning Daisy, I have changed my mind about her. I used to think that she was silly and superficial. It was mentioned in the film (and I remember this phrase from the book) that girls should be silly and beautiful, and Daisy wanted to match this standard of hers. But she wasn’t like this, she just behaved the way it was needed and would be more convenient. Even, maybe, not to bother herself and the others. It must be much easier to think you’re a silly childish creature unaware of any troubles than to take things to the heart and have responsibilities. And I’m sure now Daisy deliberately put on that mask of hers. And Gatsby only noticed the hint that uncovered that nature of Daisy’s: he heard the sound of money in Daisy’s voice. He didn’t see further than rich background, high expectations and demands.
Besides, thanks to the film I paid some attention to minor characters like Myrtle and her husband. While reading the book I was totally shocked by their tragic end, but nothing more, while the film producer drew my attention to the fate of this couple and showed that the book is not only about the Great Gatsby and the tragedy of a person too much devoted to a dream which was already behind him, but about the people of his age, who suffer, get affected and just mix up in their business, either financial or personal.
To sum up, the film has left a pleasant impression, but of course after seeing the film only one cannot get the whole sense which is hidden in the book. And although I wasn’t totally delighted with the cast and the performance, I must say that the film was very helpful, interesting and nothing to do with today’s Hollywood stuff.
So, I’m very grateful to the people who had to take pains in organizing this event!

P.S. Can’t help saying that I was charmed by the scenes at Gatsby’s ritzy parties! I was completely carried away by the roaring twenties and if I were given a chance to choose another period of history to live in, I would choose to live in New York right in those times!

Katya: I must confess that the screen adaptation of “The Great Gatsby “, its 1974 version was quite a surprise for me. Although not having the slightest idea of how the other 3 films were organized, I tend to think that that one was not the most successful variant. To my mind, the most crucial flaws were due to bad, inappropriate casting.
First of all, after having seen the presentation of the movie with Toby Stephens I actually couldn’t imagine any other actor playing this role. I really doubt that Robert Redford was the best candidate to play Jay Gatsby, for there was nothing in his appearance resembling Gatsby’s features. Indeed, the famous smile of this character, insincere but still extremely charming and conquering one’s prejudiced inclination was totally absent from Redford’s face, even occasionally. I don’t even remember him smiling at all. What’s more, he lacked that sense of romanticism, which was Gatsby’s part of nature. However, his play was highly professional and can be called neither amateurish, nor bad. It was only his unsuitability that influenced or even ruined the impression.
Secondly, Daisy’s childish, easy-going, coquettish behaviour was too exaggerated, which added hysterical notes to her personality. Her plainliness, emptiness was thus made too evident and therefore even more plain and superficial. The reason why they made her a blonde also seems incomprehensible. Perhaps, they attempted to render that hollow personality of hers perceptible by the mere look at her appearance?..
The playing I really appreciated was that of Wilson. Indeed, the book’s character always seemed to me too inconspicuous, flat, while the actor managed to fill it with unique brightness and create a solid, harmonious type, making the most of this secondary part.
What should be also mentioned is that they preserved the most of the book, which is undoubtedly an exploit. Of course, some details were changed or omitted, but that appears to a common victim to picturing a book. Still, neglecting the love affair of Nick and Jordan as well as its total omission is perfectly unjustified.
On the whole, the movie produces good impression, but the attempt to preserve as much of the book as possible made it a bit too protracted and dull. What they did was succeed in depicting the roaring twenties in their essence, creating the most vivid and ritzy image of it.

Olga S: There is a common opinion that a film is usually much worse than a book – the script-writer tends to add more “action” and remove deeply philosophical themes. Hopefully, there are exceptions, and one of that (quite rare, in my opinion) cases in the film “Great Gatsby” based on F.S.Fitzgerald’s story with the same title. First of all, I should mention that all turning-point scenes were thoroughly reproduced in the course of the film. What’s more, there was nothing made-up into the setting, which unfortunately often happens now (for example, a modern Hollywood film based on “The Scarlet Letter” by N.Hawthorn. Actually, they left only a few episodes from the book and shot a beautiful and a bit tragic love-story, which has little to do with the original idea).
However, some moments were changed for no obvious reason. It is important in the book that we know the story of Daisy’s marriage from her friend who tells it to Nick Carraway, presupposing that Gatsby knew nothing of that sad episode. Whereas in the film we have the story told to Gatsby by Daisy, which gives him enough reasons to try and prove to Tom that Daisy had never been a happy wife. And I believe it is vital that Gatsby should have no obvious reason to claim Daisy for himself and try to return what cannot be returned.
As for the cast, it was splendid. Although Gatsby could have at least once smiled his famous smile, and Tom could have been a bit more of a “macho”, it did not spoil the whole impression. The character that added tragedy to Gatsby’s and Myrtle’s death was Wilson. He is of minor importance in the story, but the actor who played him was very talented and attracted attention to that tragedy of “a little man”, who suffered just because he did no harm to anybody.
But the strongest point of the film is the carefully created atmosphere of the “roaring twenties”, with parties, emancipated women, prosperity of higher classes and carelessness for everything in that world. Fitzgerald managed to show us the spirit of that time, but the loud and crazy jazz just flung me into the middle of that gregarious and chaotic environment, to which Gatsby, though considered to be a part of it, was a complete stranger, from the first seconds. Thus it was easier to understand the character of Daisy, who cannot do without luxury and constant having fun, even at the expense of others – a “careless driver”, the definition given by the author that reveals her whole nature in only three words.


anna_filatova said...

Didn't I tell you that I have the most talented and intelligent students? I am really proud of them.

Ksyuta said...

Hello, Anna Vladimirovna!
I'd like to send you my homework and hope you'll be able to read about my impressiones before clases. Sorry for being late with it.

If you ask me what my impressions of the film are I will answer without any hesitation that I liked it very much! First of all I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that the producer of the film didn’t try to change the plot of the book, on the contrary, I think, he tried to bring to the spectator every idea of the author. In the film he did his best to keep to the themes raised by Fitzgerald in the book. And it seems to me that he managed to do it because none of the details was omitted. In my opinion it should be highly appreciated especially because in our time usually the producers are aimed at attracting people mostly not with the plot but with trick effects. Unfortunately, modern films bristle with them but lack sense.
The second reason for witch I liked the film is that the actors were chosen very successfully. The images of the characters in the film coincided with the ones that appeared in my mind when I was reading the book! But I must confess that at the very beginning of the film it seemed to me that Nick’s appearance resembled a little Forest Gump’s one. So if I hadn’t read the book, I wouldn’t take Nick in serious firstly. The man who played the part of Gatsby is the only actor who gave the best fit for it. He was serious, dignified and resolute but at the same time very romantic and ready to do everything that is within his possibilities to win the affection of Daisy.
Talking about Daisy in the film it’s necessary to pay attention that she had the charming voice that resembled the sounds of money, it was the same as I had imagined reading the book. But on the other hand I thought the actress would be prettier and would behave more carelessly but the she made an impression on me that Daisy only pretended to be stupid and in fact was more serious and responsible than it could seem at first sight.
In general all the actors were cast excellently except for Tom. In the book it was said that he was handsome had a strong body and muscles. I was very surprised to see a man with a constitution far from robust.
We should also mention that the producer reproduced the atmosphere of the roaring twenties with its noisy parties in luxurious houses from which the sounds of laughter and music were heard.
As for the setting of the film I should say that on the whole it is brilliant I’m sure that the producer spent lots of time thinking over how to make the film much closer to the book. And probably it’s the main disadvantage of the film it can seem not to be very interesting if you have read the book before.

ewe said...

Good evening, Anna Vladimirovna!
I've posted the final version of my review on my weblog