Friday, May 31, 2013

Breaking Bad In The 1920's

We saw The Great Gatsby last week and I was full of anticipation. I've read the novel several times...and am a huge fan of the first movie version with Robert Redford.

When I first heard about this movie I thought...why make another one? Then heard it was Lurmann and Martin and I started getting very excited for it's release. The two year wait was worth it!

Why do I love the novel and story so much? I love the dreamy tone of the novel with the insights dropped and dripped into a decadant setting...and it  has many layers of meaning relevant to Buddhism.

“I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” 

“If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him” 

This movie depended on the charisma and earnest emotions of Leonardo DiCaprio's performance. If we don't care about him and his spirit then it's going to be a failed story.  Much of the story fits so tightly into understanding the ideals of The American Dream. The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work. In the definition of the American Dream by James Truslow Adams in 1931, "life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement" regardless of social class or circumstances of birth.

The American Dream has always been an interesting strange ideal to me as a Canadian. We just do not teach our children this ethos nor do we believe it in Canada. And although I never believed in this ideal and thought it strange and even "fancy" (Canadians don't like fancy lofty ideals) there was an element that was similar in my mind to the concept of maya and illusion in Sanskrit and in buddhism. Not so much a literal connection but another reason why The American Dream has always been a fascinating ideals to me...also a futile and dangerous ideal. 

In Buddhism the idea is that everything we see here is a kind of illusions...for example "Subsequently, in Mahayana Buddhism, illusion seems to play a somewhat larger role. Here, the magician's illusion exemplifies how people misunderstand themselves and their reality, when we could be free from this confusion. Under the influence of ignorance, we believe objects and persons to be independently real, existing apart from causes and conditions. We fail to perceive them as being empty of a real essence, whereas in fact they exist much like māyā, the magical appearance created by the magician. The magician's illusion may exist and function in the world on the basis of some props, gestures, and incantations, yet the show is illusory. The viewers participate in creating the illusion by misperceiving and drawing false conclusions. Conversely, when appearances arise and are seen as illusory, that is considered more accurate."

So the idea that a nation or a person would be so invested in the social structures and materialism for the sake of materialism or social climbing or "progress" or "improvement" is very deep and interesting to a tragic way. The idea that a writer would take these kinds of layers of conflict on in America during Prohibition and class division was always brilliant to me. The idea that Gatsby really did manifest his destiny by being a gangster along the lines of The Godfather was just so brilliant. We create these ideals and we are not able to predict the potential ways a person can work the system to claim a material victory. 

Considering the massive economic collapse of the United States...a remake of this novel in movie form now seems very wise. Lurmann and Martin have made a glamourous sexy lively tragic and gorgeous gangster movie. Their movie is literary both visually and actually with montages of the narrator watching, recording and writing sometimes cursive is layered on top of the movie action. In this way I felt as if the repetitve musing s of  the narrator about who the characters were, with references to Gatsby being a Khrishna, Hamlet type tragic figure to the image of a billboard with large eyes looming...watching...that there was no God in this novel.

For me, the novel itself...the act of storytelling and artifice-making is the the consciousness of "God". There is no god except the story. And life is a story one which it is difficult to see it as an illusion but only as "reality". Our social constructs, our beliefs, and our values are also results of our we make a living. People are selfish, and careless, and not capable of self-reflection except in poetry, art and story. Story and art uses fakery and illusion to help us see through the illusion of reality.  

And this is why I liked the movie so much...and of course the costumes and sets and emotional POW of sorrow was awesome.

3 comments: said...

i think i have heard of this but never seen the movie version. hope you enjoyed though. i have been busy finishing up school for this last quarter and getting ready to finish up my last quarter for my Associates Degree and then thinking about going back for my Bachelors in Cyber Security. Its alot to take on but in the end its worth the money well spent. Just hope I can find work to go with all this money I am spending.

Greg S. said...

Great review Candy. Check out this article on the current state of the American Dream:

PS: You still owe me an e-mail.

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