Friday, 23 January 2015

23/01/15 - Gatsbytanic

It’s a subject that’s been hotly debated in the gossipy common room of the internet: is The Great Gatsby actually the sequel to Titanic?
It sounds absurd, I know - but the more you look at the two films, the more it seems that we’re all actually living in a weirdly convoluted back-and-forth fiction/reality time-swirl in which our entire existences as human beings are merely providing background colour to the real truth of the universe: Jack Dawson became Jay Gatsby. That one evolving persona is the kingpin to all of culture and humanity. 

A clarification, though: we’re talking about the 2013 Baz Luhrmann version of The Great Gatsby, rather than the far superior 2000 adaptation starring Toby Stephens and Paul Rudd; that was a made-for-TV film that very few people have seen, but trust me – the casting is spot-on, it’s beautifully shot, and it pisses all over Luhrmann’s needlessly flashy effort. But you can’t argue with the cosmos, and it’s the 2013 version that very much acts as a sort of Titanic II: This Time There’s No Boat.  

So, what’s the deal with Jack Dawson? Leonardo DiCaprio’s character in Titanic was a happy-go-lucky chancer who’d travelled the world despite being homeless and penniless; he latched onto Rose DeWitt Bukater having found himself on the ship by luck (you’ve seen it, you know this) and seemed pretty genuine in his affections, ultimately – supposedly - sacrificing himself for her at the end. The last thing we see of him is when Rose says ‘I won’t let go,’ then, er, lets go and he sinks into the icy depths.
Yeah, I’d be pissed off about that too. It’s no surprise that he faked his death, floated away and chose to reinvent himself.

The principal dichotomy of The Great Gatsby is that we don’t really know whether to see Jay Gatsby as a good guy or a bad guy – Fitzgerald’s genius lies in telling a human story that lures you in and then pulls the rug from under your feet… but perhaps doesn’t, you’re not sure.
Gatsby is a complex and shadowy character, claiming to be an Oxford man and a war hero, although his past is mired in secrecy. Can any of his peers ever really know where he came from, and how he came to be so thoroughly well off?
No, they can’t – because until he appeared on the Long Island social scene, he was going by the name of Jack Dawson, scratching a day-to-day existence and drawing fanciful rich poppets ‘like his French girls’. It’s pretty obvious that his last act before leaving Rose in the North Atlantic was to palm the Heart of the Ocean from her jacket pocket and replace it with a fake diamond before floating casually away.

Gatsby is open about the fact that he’s ‘trying to forget something very sad that happened to me long ago,’ and given that he (as far as we know) would live on after his ‘death’ solely in the memory of one woman, he’s ideally placed to cash in his loot and reinvent himself as a playboy – albeit a tragic one with a painted-on smile.
His yearning for Rose clearly manifests itself in his dogged pursuit of Daisy – a less glamorous flower, but nevertheless a nubile young poppet in the clutches of an abusive relationship who falls for the fancy of the floppy-haired charmer. Sound familiar? It’s a tactic that works for him, even if it’s always doomed to end in tragedy…

In a nutshell, then, Dawson survived the sinking of the Titanic, made it to America, sold the sodding great diamond, then spent the next ten years building up the affluent Gatsby lifestyle – the mansion, the suits, the bonds and stocks, the parties… but it was all fundamentally pointless. He’d sacrificed his love for Rose, never managed to come to terms with the folly, tried to replace her with Daisy, but was forever haunted by the phantoms of his mistakes. And then he died in the water, just like he should have done in 1912. It all makes perfect sense.

It also stands to reason, then, that in parallel with writing The Great Gatsby in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald also roughed out the scripts for Titanic and the 2013 adaptation of his novel, and bequeathed them to James Cameron and Baz Luhrmann respectively. Clever bastard. It’s like fucking Inception or something.
(Although he was compelled to do so by the over-arching architectural gameplan of Dawson/Gatsby, in line with the weirdly convoluted back-and-forth fiction/reality time-swirl thing. It’s actually more like The Truman Show, everything’s a lie.)

So, who is Dawson/Gatsby now? Is he living in what we perceive to be reality, or has he hopped into another supposedly fictional construct? Is he Joey Tribbiani, or Carter Pewterschmidt, or Brad Pitt, or Donald Trump, or Luke Skywalker, or your dad?
No. He is, of course, Leonardo DiCaprio. And he’s been toying with you for years.

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