The period in which this movie takes place has actually happened in America back in the 1920’s. Right before the Great Depression and World War II, America had been thriving from the success from World War I. There had been so much development and improvement during that time that America seemed to be constantly rolling and never seemed to stop. Americans invested in the Stock Market to increase their monetary value and it worked. The ban on alcohol had been lift and people became alcoholics and ended up spending all their money on alcohol. They were extremely frivolous with their earnings, throwing ravishing parties and believing that nothing could happen to break their success. This did all come boiling over however, once the Market crashed and the Great Depression commenced.
Back to the Film
In the movie, Gatsby is a rich man with a huge mansion, but is rarely seen. He is known for his parties but is never seen attending them. This drew some concern to everyone who invited themselves but eventually they got over it, over taken by the beauty of his place and unlimited supply of alcohol. His parties would consist of music, lights, fireworks, dancers, and alcohol that would run late into the night. In reference to John Berger’s, Way of Seeing, this environment affected the public’s perspective of Gatsby and his life style. Due to the fact that no one has ever seen Gatsby before, the environment was very mysterious but at the same time they knew he could throw a great party so why not attend.
In reference to John Berger’s, Way of Seeing, perspective was another large aspect to the artistic parties that took place at Gatsby’s manor. As explained, the human eye can only be at one place at one time and with everything happening at once those parties can easily be described as extremely overwhelming. My perspective would definitely be influenced by this environment and I think that is what the director tried to persuade through the various and quick changes of the camera during those scenes. The camera’s ability to reproduce the authenticity of the scene allows the audience to see only what the camera captures which makes it difficult to experience the originality. This reproduction also influences the mood and aura.
The easiest way to describe Aura is the feeling or mood that occurs by using our senses in our day to day lives. The Aura is influenced from both the environment and perspective throughout the film itself. It sets the tone for how the film is supposed to be influential towards the audience. According to Walter Benjamin’s The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, if something is truly authentic, meaning it is the original art piece, then the feeling when viewing it will be completely different from seeing a copy of it, hence the meaning of the Aura. In The Great Gatsby, the parties helped to build the aura of Gatsby himself and his lifestyle. The Aura helps tie us to the actor’s presence as well.
The physical appearances of the actors and actresses in the film also contributed to the aura that the film gave off. The men were dressed in their Sundays best with their hair combed back perfectly and there suits tailored to fit them. The women were dressed from head to toe in a wide range of things that either they have splurged on themselves or their husbands had bought for them. From expensive jewelry to elaborate dresses, this all added to the artsy affect the movie portrayed representing that time in American history known as the Roaring 20’s when nothing was looked at as simple. Everyone dressed to impress giving off that famous Aura of luxury and expenses.
The Original for Me
Although this story has been adapted several times, for me this was the original. I did not read the book by F. Scott Fitzgerald for which the movie was based on or see any previous adaptations to this book. This is probably why the movie flopped according to critics because they all had a previous idea or Aura of Gatsby from the original story. So, by seeing something that was not the original, the movie became an easy target for those who in fact have read the book and who have learned of the events that took place during the 20’s and 30’s in American History. This adaptation corrupted their Aura towards the storyline and automatically acted like a reproduction that was distorted from the original.
In contrast to others who saw the film, because this was my first time ever being introduced to the story, I enjoyed the film because I had nothing else to compare it to unlike the critics. It was my originality and now if I were to read the book I would obviously compare it to the movie but probably with support towards the movie because that is what made the first memory in my mind. For instance, if I were to read the book when they mentioned Gatsby doing something I would automatically imagine Leonardo Dicaprio playing the part because that is who he played in the film, which is where I first experienced the story line. My Aura would be affected by the film and the book would seem like an intrusion to the original story I witnessed in the film.
“Young and Beautiful”
Musically, the film was also influenced by artists with their songs to signify a specific aura to a specific scene or character. Several songs come up in the film that added to the authenticity of the emotions and feelings of the aura towards the film. For example, Lana Del Rey’s song “Young and Beautiful” talks a lot about the past which is what the main two characters are struggling with. Therefore, throughout the song, she sings about whether the character’s future together will ever be the same as the past. Although this was the main struggle throughout the entire film, to find a song to sum it all up was the greatest accomplishment to come yet even allowing this artist to become Grammy nominated. Whatever it may be the music plays a large part in expressing subtle feeling while it plays through the action.
America had learned a lot from this time in history but only by looking at the past. Once the Roaring 20’s had roared right by and the great depression happened, only then did America realize how they frivolously spent their money and wasted it away. That is what this film did. It helped explain that although all the parties were great and living in the moment was even greater, but at the end of the day nothing really changed for Gatsby or anyone else. Money was great but there was no way to repeat the past and that is all Gatsby ever wanted. He wanted to go back and start over from the beginning and experience it all again for a second time.
Book vs. The Film
Both Walter Benjamin and John Berger saw the importance in originality and authenticity. They realized the Aura is a major part in interpreting art and how it helps to relay the mood and feelings towards the audience. Without it, the audience would not be affected in the appropriate way the artist is trying to portray it to be understood. Through reproduction, the original source or piece is distorted and is instantly changed forever depending on your first experience. Due to the fact that I saw the recently made movie first, before I read the book, my aura about the storyline will forever be compared to the film. No matter if I ever watch another remake or read the book, I will always compare it to the film I watched because that is what opened me up and allowed me to experience its originality in its aura.
According to what we have previously been exposed to will affect our attitude towards art and how it influences us. The first time will always be the first time and when we see something that we can compare it to, that is caused by a similarity in the authenticity and aura of art itself, any reproduction would serve as an insult towards the original source. This theory is simply. The audience’s perspective is based on what they have already experienced and to whatever they have to compare it to.
Jake Hagen is a freshman at Cal State Northridge and an aspiring chef, often found looking through cookbooks in search for the latest and greatest recipes to try out.