This Won't End Well

By Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ugh:


Baz Luhrmann said that he has "workshopped" his upcoming film The Great Gatsby in 3D, though he has not made a final decision about whether to shoot the Carey Mulligan/Leonardo DiCaprio project that way or not.

It's worth going back over Hampton Stevens piece on why film versions of The Great Gatsby so often fail:

The film won't come close the power of the novel, but not simply because Gatsby is a book, and, as the cliché insists, the Book is Always Better Than The Movie. Film versions of Fitzgerald's masterwork inevitably fail because of the kind of novel Gatsby is—frankly thin on story, but incredibly thick with introspection, thoughts unspoken, intricately woven metaphor, and long, dazzling descriptions of otherwise mundane things like sunsets, front lawns and angry wives that are only special because of how the narrator describes them.

Yes. As in so many of the books I love, I found the plot in Gatsby to almost be beside the point. Whenever I see it translated to cinema, the film-maker inevitably crafts a story of doomed romance between Daisy and Gatsby. It's obviously true that Gatsby holds some sort of flame for Daisy, but what makes the book run (for me) is the ambiguity of that flame. Does he really love her? Or is she just another possession signaling the climb up? I always felt that last point—the climb up—was much more important than the romance. What I remember about Gatsby is the unread books. His alleged love for Daisy barely registers for me.

I think it might be interesting to see a movie very loosely inspired by Gatsby, much like it's interesting to see poems inspired by paintings. But every poem shouldn't be made a painting. Art is not necessarily made better by literalization. I'm not convinced that The Great Gatsby works without those pockets of imagination which make the written word, still, a unique experience.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2011/01/this-wont-end-well/69188/