By Jack O'Callaghan '23
After reading the novel and watching the 1974 film of The Great Gatsby, I took in and noticed a lot about the movie. Firstly, the film was made by director Jack Clayton with screenwriter Francis Ford Coppola. Some of the main actors were Robert Redford, Sam Waterson, Mia Farrow, Bruce Dern, Lois Chiles, Scott Wilson, and Karen Black. As a seventeen year old who has seen movies generally only from my time, it was interesting to see a movie that was from 30 years before my existence. Many small details that I had never seen before in films were present, and gave the movie more depth and intricateness. By using these small details whether it was through editing, lighting, filming, or any sort of film strategy, it gave the viewer a look of what the 1920s were.
The plot of The Great Gatsby is one for those who are interested in love stories with scandalous aspects, and many dark twists and deeper meanings. In the beginning of the film we see Nick Carroway, a young man who just moved to West Egg, Long Island. The story is through the lens and narration of Nick along with his interactions with the other characters. One of these characters being the mysterious millionaire Jay Gatsby, who is obsessed with reuniting with his former love Daisy Buchanan. Being Nick’s cousin, but also married to her husband Tom Buchanon, we see the story of this impossible love unfold through Nick’s eyes. My personal experience with watching this film was probably different from people who are older than me or from a different era of movie watching. I had never seen a movie from such a different time period of our world as The Great Gatsby, so everything about the movie felt old-fashioned. What added to this older era feeling was how it was meant to take place in the 1920s, therefore it amplified this classic feeling. The music used in the film added to this, as there was constant use of music from the twenties. Visually, the film presented the viewers the day-to-day attire of the rich (and some of the poor) of the twenties. Along with this, the cameras all seemed to be filming under some light fog. This added a feeling of haziness to the film and made me feel like I was looking into a room filled with light smoke. I think this was also to highlight how smoking was very common and prominent during this time. For my analysis for this film, I gained many ideas from my personal experience. This film used many different techniques to display its authenticity and unique style in subtle and blatant ways. For example, I thought the light smoke or fog in every room made each scene feel like there was heat or smoke in the room. This worked nicely because many times it was hot or someone was smoking. Another subtle detail was how the men were generally always sweating. This added to the film’s realism and showed its setting: summertime. A more blatant effect was how the cameras were a little grainy when filming. I don’t know whether it was intentional or not, but this really made each scene of the movie look and feel older visually. Physically in the movie, I also thought the cars, the attire, and the landscape added this olden effect in addition to the cameras. This makes sense because it was supposed to take place in the twenties, but I just wanted to highlight that they definitely achieved that vibe of the past. Along with cameras, the sound effects worked well with everything else. From the car engines to the gunshots at the end of the film, the sound effects were all olden and authentic sounding. Lastly, the thematic content definitely fit in what my interpretation of the twenties were. I hope this doesn’t come off as offensive or rude, but I saw no gay people, obviously. That was one thing I noticed, second, I noticed how there was some racism. Again, this makes sense for the time in history. Third, the women were definitely in less of a role in power then the men were. Lastly, I thought the portrayal of class was exhibited well as we got to see both sides of the spectrum: the wealthiest man in Long Island, and a gas station owner. I found it interesting how as a viewer you got to see everything from appearance to the way each person spoke. It clearly showed the division of class between individuals in the film, and the time period that they were in.
Overall, I thought that this film was very interesting and enjoyable. I think the film has an authenticity to it that is hard to find in films nowadays, and it portrays the twenties flawlessly. I would recommend this film to anyone who is able to show interest for a movie through its entirety, and not just when things are spicy. An age recommendation would probably be fifteen and above due to the average attention span of younger viewers. Along with this, there are a few moments of violence, gore, sexual situations, and disturbing moments. I thoroughly enjoyed this film and I think it is definitely worth a watch, especially after reading the novel.