Once again late on the boat, I just now saw The Great Gatsby (my first 2013 film) and was struck the most by the visuals and the soundtrack. This was a Baz Luhrmann film so, of course, the music was essential. (If you have seen Moulin Rouge!, the 2001 version, then you have seen a Baz Luhrmann movie, which is probably the largest example of how vital music is for his productions.) Similar to how current 2001 music played an essential role to Moulin Rouge!, the music of Luhrmann’s adaption of The Great Gatsby evokes similar territory. The wild, roaring twenties parties are met with the sounds of Jay-Z, Lana Del Rey, Sia Fuller, Florence + The Machine, Beyonce, Andre 3000, and others. When these scenes go on, there is a wild pump to them, a thrill of energy that would be familiar to anyone who has ever attended (or watched) a party set in this century. The music also comes at quieter moments, such as when the characters are swimming and need atmospheric music to play in the background (in which case Lana Del Rey makes a fine example). I wouldn’t say that the music is distracting from the rest of the picture, but it is noticeable, particularly considering that this is supposed to be the 1920s and not the 2010s.
Yet is this needed? Obviously part of this seems to be a message that the director wants to get out about how Gatsby is a story that connects with viewers of all generations and that the themes of the twenties can still be applied today. At least, that’s what I assume. Most films that apply this technique mean to have this message. That message does come across in the film quite clearly. And for viewers who listen to these artists, the scenes will become more familiar than if the film’s soundtrack was only filled with, say, Gershwin. But does that distort the message? Is modernity needed to connect to the past? Can the past be the past without the need to connect it to the future? Or does the technique Luhrmann use serve a universal purpose? As humans, are we only able to truly connect with what we know in our present life?
What do you think? Let me know in the comments.
*Photo Courtesy of businessinsider.com.