ARTS ISSUE: Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ glorifies gaudy, grandiosePosted on December 5, 2013 | by Laura Wolford
Perhaps no film in the last 10 years proved more ornate than Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of “The Great Gatsby.” One would expect no less from Luhrmann, the king of extravagance. For any of his films, he demands a grand narrative, lavish sets, and ridiculous yet appropriate music, intense character development. It’s almost surprising Luhrmann did not adapt F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic tale of the Roaring ’20s sooner.
The film expertly portrays the decadence of life for wealthy socialites in the ’20s, it plays with themes of excess, idealism and social classes to demonstrate the culture of these booming times in America.
Visually, through a jewel box of colors, textures, shapes and movements, the film expertly portrays the lifestyles of the time. Each costume and set is crafted with care to accurately capture ’20s glamour. And each scene, especially the big party scene at Gatsby’s home, is articula-ted with such exuberance and style that the film encourages its viewers to overindulge their senses. As if the computer-generated visual grandeur was not enough, the film’s 3-D release added an extra layer to the explosive aesthetics of every scene.
To top off Luhrmann’s grand and self-indulgent vision, the soundtrack includes top-100 artists such as Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Florence and the Machine, whose musical styles match the lavishness of the ’20s. The title track, “Young and Beautiful,” sung with a smoky and hypnotic voice from Lana Del Rey, radiates this carefree behavior as well.
Lana Del Rey’s song becomes emblematic of the film. Its swelling strings are just as excessive as any of the visuals. But like the characters, there’s a surprising depth to the song. This is exactly what Luhrmann intended to do with his rendition of “The Great Gatsby.” On the surface the film has plenty to process, but there is even more meaning underneath it all.
A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, Dec. 5 print edition. Laura Wolford is a staff writer. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.