I know that The Great Gatsby has already been made into a movie five times now, but with each successive attempt the story has remained illusive to the medium. Like many of you probably reading this, I went to see Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation and just went away a little cold and let down. The movie was absolutely beautiful and DiCaprio was fantastic as Gatsby, but I just felt like so much was missing that held the movie back from capturing the real spirit of Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.
This got my mind working on all of the differences between the film and the book and a lot of nitpicking ensued from that point on. However, through the sea of my needless nitpicking, I was able to come up with 5 legitimate reasons as to why Gatsby hasn’t been translated accurately from novel to film yet and will never be translated accurately. Keep in mind that The Great Gatsby is my favorite book so obviously this list is subjective and I feel a little more strongly about the subject than most people.
Whenever you’re ready, read on to see 5 reasons why The Great Gatsby will never be translated accurately to film…
5. The Narration
The narration is absolutely key to everything that the story stands for and failing to find success with it will ruin any adaptation of the novel even if everything else is handled flawlessly. Through Nick Carraway’s constant narration in the novel the reader can really become attached to his character and the world that Fitzgerald has created comes across as tragically beautiful through his naive eyes. In the movies Nick comes across as plain because he is never given anything to do other than marvel at what’s around him like a perpetually enthralled visitor to this otherworldly place.
Film is an inherently visual medium so having an overabundance of narration means your movie is basically dead in the water from the first frame since very few films can balance voiceover narration with visuals correctly. The many adaptations of The Great Gatsby have all tried to find ways to keep the narration interesting but it just comes across as boring because the nature of the story changes when told through a different artistic medium.
Also, Luhrmann’s frame narrative of having Nick actually be the author of the story was a dreadful fail in every sense of the word and made it seemed like he was really trying way to hard to make the narration work, which made it feel forced instead of natural as in the novel. In the book it works flawlessly since literature can use narration in ways that enrich the world but films just show you their worlds making narration needless in most cases.
This article was first posted on May 16, 2013