Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Great Gatsby: Analysis of Musical Irony

The Great Gatsby: Analysis of Musical Irony

The Great Gatsby, originally a well-known novel written by Scott F. Fitzgerald in 1925, was remade into a movie in 2013 starring Leonardo Di Caprio as the infamous Jay Gatsby.  Set in New York in the early 1920s, Nick Caraway narrates the unparalleled story of his once penniless, now multi-millionaire neighbor Jay Gatsby and Gatsby’s first love, and now married, Daisy Buchannan.  Nick witnesses Gatsby repeatedly throw monumental parties for all of the wealthy population of New York, in hopes that Daisy will one day wander in and enter his life again. Gatsby’s effort to win Daisy’s heart paves the way to the captivating scene which comprises the three appeals of pathos, ethos and logos.

Before diving into this awe-inspiring scene, is it evident that the overall soundtrack of The Great Gatsby is intended to create ethos for the film. There is irony in the fact that the essence of the Roaring Twenties era is manifested in The Great Gatsby, yet the genre of music that appears on the soundtrack is modern contemporary pop/rap songs. The album includes tracks by popular artists, such as Beyoncé, Fergie, JAY-Z, Florence + the Machine, among others, and I believe this is an attempt to appeal to the audiences’ ethos. I would argue that the director made this choice because he recognized that the 2013 audience of this film would be familiar with the style of these songs and artists, and this creates ethos for the soundtrack and the film as a whole.  Some of these tracks are also featured with a jazzy-1920s twist, which integrates the Roaring Twenties music style with our modern time period.  This allows us as an audience to better identify with the story and characters, while still bringing us back to the time period of the story.  I was persuaded by this choice for the genre of music in The Great Gatsby and believe that it created huge success for the film, so therefore I rate the overall soundtrack a 5 out of 5.

The director brilliantly appeals to the audiences’ pathos in an epic scene of The Great Gatsby in which Daisy and Gatsby reunite after five years of being apart, which I can affirm has pulled on my heartstrings.  Among the tracks featured on The Great Gatsby soundtrack is “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Ray, which was released for the first time on that album. The song is associated quite frequently with the film because of its originality to the soundtrack, which contributes to it’s ethos. Lana Del Ray is an established artist known for her romantic songs with a dark and tragic twist, characteristic of “Young and Beautiful”, which plays throughout this entire scene. Daisy and Gatsby are gallivanting about as Gatsby shows Daisy his exquisite mansion, and all that he has earned and accomplished since they were last together.  They are genuinely and blissfully happy throughout the entire scene, yet for some reason I felt somber as I watched it.  It is stated in the Understanding Movies text, “Music can also provide ironic contrast. In many cases, the predominant mood of a scene can be neutralized or even reversed with contrasting music”.  The director most certainly succeeded creating this irony and appealing to the audience’s pathos. This song seems to evoke feelings of nostalgia for the days when Gatsby and Daisy were “young and beautiful”, reminding us that their circumstances have changed and they can no longer freely be together. The mood of the song is used to build up a tone of sadness throughout the scene, which results in Daisy expressing her own sadness.  The scene concludes with Gatsby playfully tossing his shirts one-by-one over the railing and onto Daisy, and she begins to cry.  Gatsby asks her why she’s sad, and she says “I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts”.  

Apart from appealing to our pathos, “Young and Beautiful” also appeals to the audiences’ logos and is symbolic in what it communicates about Daisy and Gatsby. The volume of the song varies during this montage as indistinct chatter and audible speaking are interspersed throughout the visual montage, however the song continually fades in on the line “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?”.  This line makes perfect sense in illustrating Daisy and Gatsby’s love story. When Daisy uttered “I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts” in response to Gatsby, she was expressing her regret for letting him go five years prior, along with his status and material wealth. Daisy confuses her lust for youth, beauty, and wealth with her feelings of love for Gatsby. An incredibly convincing argument is created with the use of the song “Young and Beautiful”— that Gatsby and Daisy value wealth and fortune above all else, and this is their tragic character flaw that will be their ultimate downfall by the end of the film.

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