Book review: ‘The Book of Mirrors’ by E.O Chirovici

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How would you piece together a murder?

Do you trust other people’s memories?
Do you trust your own?
Should you?

Princeton, 1987: renowned psychologist Professor Joseph Weider is brutally murdered.

New York, twenty-five years later: literary agent Peter Katz receives a manuscript. Or is it a confession?

Today: unearth the secrets of The Book of Mirrors and discover why your memory is the most dangerous weapon of all.

Memories, those fragments from our past which can create happiness, pain and nostalgia, form the basis of Chirovici’s complex new thriller The Book of Mirrors. It’s a fascinating plot tracing the memories of Richard Flynn, who retells his version of the events which lead to the death of Professor Weider 25 years prior. One half of Flynn’s manuscript lands with an intrigued literary agent Peter Katz, who sets out to retrieve its other half with the help of reporter John Keller. Using his investigative journalism skills to piece together the events, Keller becomes embroiled in finding answers. Lastly, it’s retired cop Roy Freeman who is also on the hunt for the truth surrounding Weider’s death, and carries out his own investigation in the hopes of resolving one of his unsolved cases. Every character wishes to know who killed Professor Weider for their own reasons, and the book is thus split into parts that follow what each character deduces from their individual investigations.

Interestingly, Flynn’s memories and manuscript frame the novel and create a multilayered story within a story – Chirovic makes it clear that the ‘mirrors’ the title refers to reveals harsh truths for each character, but also creates a jarring, distorted world that flits between reality and make-believe. The idea that our memories can fade, mutate, tell us false truths or even be 100% accurate is brought to life in the novel, and adds to the uncertainty of the plot.

The Book of Mirrors does not rely as much as on aesthetic description as it does in revealing its characters’ inner monologues. As the story unfolds, it brings to mind distorted mirrors found in a fairground, where one can face many different versions of one truth, but which feels nightmarish too. The Book of Mirrors is very much a psychological conundrum, but I appreciated that Chirovic sticks closely to the narrative, and carefully ties any loose threads together by the end.

The Book of Mirrors is a fascinating read that shatters the bubble each character is living in. Intelligently written, the novel offers a good insight into the depth of our memories, and the stories that shape our lives.

Rating: 7/10

Inspired by false memories from his childhood and written in the author’s second language, remarkably The Book of Mirrors nearly wasn’t published at all.

Having been rejected in the US, E. O. Chirovici took the novel to a small UK publisher who advised him to try just one more time to get it to a wider readership. He did, and The Book of Mirrors was immediately signed by a literary agent, sparking a UK auction and world-wide rights sales.

E. O. Chirovici now lives in Brussels with his wife. He has had a prestigious and varied career in the Romanian media and has also published novels and short stories in his native language. The Book of Mirrors is his first novel in English and is being published in January.

Follow E.O Chirovici on Twitter: @EugenOChirovici

The Book of Mirrors will be published on 26th January 2017. You can pre-order it on Amazon here.

 

Book review: ‘What Alice Knew’ by T.A Cotterell

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Alice has a perfect life – a cool job, great kids, a wonderful husband. Until he goes missing one night; the phone rings and then goes dead; things don’t quite add up.

Alice needs to know what’s going on. But when she uncovers the truth she faces a brutal choice. And how can she be sure it is the truth?

Sometimes it’s better not to know.

As far as thrillers go, it feels like many authors are striving towards reaching Gone Girl perfection. But with T.A Cotterell’s debut thriller What Alice Knew, it feels as though we’ve arrived in a newer, fresher territory from the first chapter. It’s a welcome change for readers, and one that sets it apart almost instantly.

What Alice Knew centres around Alice, a portrait artist with a relatively normal life, her husband Ed, a life-saving obstetrician, and her two kids. The picture perfect family is built up with the intention that it will eventually crumble, and crumble it does. Alice’s world is rocked when she discovers a truth that affects her day-to-day life forever. Unable to cope, she slowly finds herself swallowed by an unavoidable truth – one that Alice wishes she’d never pursued. The shattering of her world is felt acutely by the reader as we discover Alice’s innermost thoughts and begin to get a very real sense of the suffocation she is feeling throughout. Cotterell seems at his best when describing the increasing guilt Alice feels throughout the story, and in fact, her decisions become more and more questionable as the story continues. Ultimately, What Alice Knew begs the question: just how innocent and moral is everyone?

Cotterell’s strength also lies in presenting relationships that have been put to the test, and fractures steadily appear. Alice’s love for Ed is thrown into the spotlight, her past comes back to haunt her in the form of an old friend, and a visit home to her mother further throws her world into disarray. This novel is very much a pressure cooker in which Alice is bubbling away, finding relief in very little places. It is clichéd to label What Alice Knew a ‘voyage of self-discovery’, but by the end, Alice’s character develops vastly and creates the most unexpected of twists. It was a twist that had me scream ‘oh my God!’, slam the book shut and ponder, just for a few minutes, about what had just happened.

What Alice Knew is a fantastically dark thriller from Cotterell, bringing together tension and intrigue into a neatly packaged debut.

Rating: 8/10

T. A. Cotterell read History of Art at Cambridge University. He worked in the City before resigning to become a freelance writer. He is now a writer and editor at the research house Redburn. He is married with three children and lives in Bristol.

Follow T.A Cotterell on Twitter: @TACotterell1

The e-book version of What Alice Knew will be published December 2016, and its paperback in April 2017. Pre-order What Alice Knew on Amazon here.

 

We need to let movies like ‘Udta Punjab’ fly

Photo credit: DNA India

Its been a long time since I watched a movie that broke my heart. Bollywood movies in particular often fail to make me emotional because of their formulaic story lines, stock characters and their inability to depict a world that one can truly relate to. Hindi cinema rarely moves away from the norm: romantic or flawed heroes saving the day, titillating dance or ‘item’ numbers,  the glamorisation of violence and much too often, typical stereotypes in abundance.

But ‘Udta Punjab’, a film about drug abuse in Punjab, is very different. Directed by Abhishek Chaubey, it finally released on June 17th when Indians went up in arms and demanded freedom of expression. This came after the Indian Central Board of Film Certification was set to make a whopping 89 cuts to the film. Despite the Bombay High Court clearing the movie for release with just one cut, the war on drugs was not over when the movie suffered yet more controversy. Two days before its release, copies of ‘Udta Punjab’ were leaked online, free for all to watch. Many claimed it was intentionally leaked by the Indian censor board. If any movie has had difficulty reaching its audience, it has been ‘Udta Punjab.’

The movie’s brilliance however lies in its stellar script and cast. ‘Udta Punjab’ is proof that a good story and impeccable acting can move people out of the comfort of their homes and into the cinema.”Speak the truth even if your voice shakes” is a quote I associate with its release. And the movie sure does speak many truths.

We follow the lives of four people directly affected by the immeasurable drug problem plaguing Punjab, which has now become the well-established drugs capital of India. It focuses on Sartaj, an officer working for the Punjab police, Preet, a doctor dealing with the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts in her hospital, Kumari, a woman working in the fields who come across a mysterious package and finally, Tommy Singh, a Punjabi singer addicted to cocaine and facing a downward spiral because of it. ‘Udta Punjab’ reveals how these previously unconnected lives come together because of drugs, and its subsequent impact on their lives.

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Kareena Kapoor as doctor Preet and Diljit Dosanjh as police officer Sartaj in a still from ‘Udta Punjab.’ (Photo credit: Indian Express)

But why is a movie like ‘Udta Punjab’ so important? For me, the story really hit a nerve. Somewhere deep within me, I was waiting for the Bollywood film industry to make a movie focusing on my hometown, Punjab. And I didn’t want it to appear on screen all frills and beauty, with generic fields of lush green, funny-sounding horns blaring down the GT road, repetitive dialogue about delectable Punjabi cuisine or shots of colourfully-clothed women singing jaunty songs and celebrating Indian festivals. That’s the kind of Punjab the rest of India and the world dreams about, but it is far removed from what Punjab is really like. I’m glad to say this surpassed my expectations.

As someone who is Punjabi and spent less time in England and more in India, any issue that affects my hometown of Punjab is always one that affects me. Drugs has been one of them for a long time. Back home in India, I have family members addicted to drugs, and have heard many stories of the lengths they’ve gone to in order to obtain illegal substances. I know relatives who have overdosed and nearly died, addicts locked up inside their homes with families seeking help from false representatives of God, people who have hidden little sachets containing smack in their pockets for all their life, and even those who have been high and driven my family and I on 8-hour journeys from Delhi to Jalandhar – just because they can. So when it comes to drug abuse in Punjab, you can say it’s a pretty sensitive subject.

What ‘Udta Punjab’ has done for cinema goers like me is simply astounding. I walked away deeply emotional and affected by what I’d seen. The direction was impeccable and the story line brutally honest. At its heart, the movie showed the destruction brought about by the presence of drugs, and the rapid breakdown of Punjab, a state which is in absolute turmoil. The police force are represented as corrupt, calculating and ready to take their cut of 10,000 rupees at the expense of those dying for just one more hit. Helpless and lost are the young boys on the streets spending money either stolen or forcefully taken from their parents in order to shoot up. Women are sex slaves reduced to objects and abused by sadistic drug lords. Politicians mimic reality and offer drugs in exchange for crucial votes that will keep them in power – a power that will continue to allow illegal drugs into the state and which will ultimately kill thousands of people involved in the trade.

Shahid Kapoor as the drug-fuelled Punjabi star Tommy Singh. (Photo credit: India Today)

Throughout ‘Udta Punjab’ there is a sense of dwindling hope, where trusted members of society become monsters in front of our very eyes. What some would think of as a dystopian nightmare is what Punjab has definitively become. I can see exactly why the Indian censor board was so eager to make cuts to the movie. It doesn’t beat around the bush. Politicians are shown as leading and fuelling the drug abuse in the state, while the police are allies in protecting and assisting criminals in drug trafficking. Women are injected with drugs and gang-raped, blame is deflected and placed on celebrities themselves corrupted by drugs and the youth are demonic, possessed and inconsolable without their daily – if not hourly – fix.

This is how ‘Udta Punjab’ shows my hometown, and I cannot pretend this portrayal is wrong. Some scenes in the movie are so awful that I turned my face away and avoided watching. Beside me, my best friend sat in tears as we came face-to-face with a reality that is still so hard to digest. Hard-hitting. Gut-wrenching. Upsetting. Real. These are just some of the words that come to mind. But most of all, I am embarrassed and ashamed that a place I call home is living with such a crisis, and that nobody is doing anything to stop it. Drug addiction is everywhere, but not more so than in Punjab. The heights the abuse and greed has reached is spiralling out of control. Those who should be helping India to thrive are happily poisoning its name for money and power. Can it ever really end?

‘Udta Punjab’ is bleak and depressing, but for all the right reasons. While hope does come, it almost feels like it’s too late.

Alia Bhatt steals the show with her heartbreaking depiction of Kumari. (Photo credit: IBN Live)

 

Movie Review: Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

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Michael Keaton as the increasingly unbalanced Riggan Thomson (Photo credit: indyweek.com)

Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) offers an unsettling and riveting exploration into the dark underbelly of fame, following a tenacious actor’s journey to redefine genre, redefine himself and redefine what it means to be both a ‘celebrity’ and ‘actor/actress’ in Hollywood from an equally unsettling angle. ★★★★★

 It is certainly humorous that in his latest release, ex-Batman star Michael Keaton plays the schizophrenic and delusional Riggan Thomson, a washed-out Hollywood star famed for playing comic book hero named ‘Birdman’, who attempts to revive his diminished career through producing an adaptation of Raymond Carver’s short story, “What we Talk About when we Talk About Love” for Broadway. At a time when actors become famous for emulating superheroes on-screen and gain popularity overnight, director Alejandro González Iñárritu emerges with a terrifying message of what happens when the actors behind these characters – or indeed, any much-loved character – experience the distressing after-effects of no longer being man of the hour.

Keaton’s charm as Riggan comes from a place of emptiness and a void that can only be filled through gaining the fame and status associated with ‘making it big (again) in Hollywood’. Indeed, the film renders true the idea that 15 minutes of fame is simply not enough for some – and particularly for those actors who then struggle to move on from basking in the media spotlight. Keaton plays out the frustration and internal conflict of Riggan impeccably well, reflecting the mental turmoil associated with keeping up appearances in Hollywood while attempting to show that as an actor, he remains current and prominent despite the dark shadow of Birdman constantly lingering over him. He showcases both a fragile and image-obsessed man attempting to make sense of his dwindling career and fame, but switches this marvelously into moments of incredible self-obsession, hysteria and anger to display Riggan’s relentless need to transform himself from comic-strip hero to a ‘real actor’ defying unimpressed critics.

The ever-lurking 'Birdman' preying on Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton). Photo credit: wearemoviegeeks.com
The ever-lurking ‘Birdman’ preying on Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton). Photo credit: wearemoviegeeks.com

Emma Stone finally sheds her quirky, chuckle-inducing persona and shines as the tormented and equally conflicted Sam, recovering from drug addiction and attempting to forgive her father or at least, begin to accept her complex relationship with him. Interestingly, director Iñárritu taps into Riggan’s failure to adapt to technological advancement and his subsequent avoidance of Twitter and Facebook, enforcing those technological divides separating the old and the young in the 21st century while also suggesting that Riggan is truly trapped in a past he helplessly clings to; in their relationship, social media distances but also brings father-daughter together. Stone is compelling as Sam and appears almost ghost-like throughout the movie, forcing Riggan to confront his failures as a father and husband and addressing his tempestuous state of mind. Her presence throughout is refreshing and representative of the acting skills that audiences have been waiting to see.

Edward Norton adds a brilliant touch of humour to the cast as Mike Shiner, the actor who can do it right on stage but finds everyday life a struggle. His conversations and scenes with Riggan are particularly entertaining to watch and his eccentric and youthful persona offers a shift in mood that is truly welcome; in a movie that constantly stresses the weight of acting in Hollywood and exhibits the dangerous seduction of fame, prestige and ‘celebrity’, Norton saves us and adds some (and I say that tentatively) normality to the film.

About the ending? It’s certainly following a new stream of movies which leave audiences in limbo and remind us that films are art and not merely for a few hours of entertainment alone. When Riggan is on stage and saying his lines “I don’t exist” by the end of the movie, we have to question how much of this is true in the bigger picture.

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(Photo credit: The Guardian/Atsushi Nishijima/AP)

Stage review: Frantic Assembly’s ‘Othello’ at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.

Photo credit: theatreroyal.com

A sound rendition of Othello cradling the dark turns of desire. ★★★★★

Frantic Assembly’s revival of Othello originally adapted, directed and choreographed by Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett is a gripping 21st century take interweaving gang culture influences, northern accents, contemporary costume and a pulsating music score that compliments the action to rigorous effect. The rapidly changing set is used exquisitely and is subject to constant change; it fluctuates effortlessly between an old, murky pub to the dark and dangerous streets where violence and bloodshed occurs. The set therefore creates the brilliant suggestion of constantly moving towards a more tempestuous end and mirrors the restlessly shifting emotions of the characters on stage. The choreography is a stunning visual compromising dance and slow-motion movements which slow down the action within a blink of an eye and bring audiences back to the present almost immediately. The play has a run time of 1 hour and 40 minutes and combined with these brisk changes, it makes for a brilliantly paced reworking of Othello which is current and executes the more finer parts of the play masterfully.

Doomed lovers. (Mark Ebulue as Othello and Kirsty Oswald as Desdemona) [Photo credit: castindoncaster.com]

Othello (Mark Ebulue) is a commanding and vigorous presence with a loving intensity in his eyes during the romantic scenes with Desdemona (Kirsty Oswald). The passion of the lovers is hinted at so as not to become too lewd for the audience and the influx of jealousy and paranoia smears across Ebulue’s face at just the right moments. One such highlight is the tender and playful dance that occurs between the lovers on top of the pool table, where bathed in a romantic purple glow, Othello and Desdemona caress each other’s body in a sensual and provocative manner and bring the lover’s passions to the public eye. The pool table is significant in its suggestion that love is indeed a game in this play.

The all-important handkerchief… (Above: Steven Miller as Iago and Leila Crerar as Emilia) [Photo credit: birmingham-rep.co.uk]

Steven Miller portrays the devilish Iago to near-perfection and renders true the image of the serpent who lurks behind the ear and poisons each character with his acid tongue. Miller is particularly good when in dialogue with other characters but weaker during his monologues, which could have been performed with more passion and dexterity. As his demise comes near, Miller appears on stage with an almost humorously blood-stained ‘Just Do It’ t-shirt, summing up Iago’s entire essence throughout the play. Leila Crerar, who plays Emilia, also gloriously peaks towards the end of the play and evokes the more feminist connotations of her character.

Frantic Assembly’s Othello explores issues of friendship, love and betrayal and race and gender within a modern and explosive framework. This is a well-paced and visually stimulating production worth seeing for its thrilling opening sequence and terrifying ending.

Until 7 February 2014. Box office: 020-8741 6850 Venue: Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith.

Stage review: Propeller’s “The Comedy of Errors” at the Rose Theatre, Kingston.

(From left) Dromio of Ephesus (Matthew McPherson), Antipholus of Syracuse (Dan Wheeler), Antipholus of Ephesus (Joseph Chance) and Dromio of Syracuse (Will Featherstone).
(Photo credit: propeller.org.uk)

Propeller’s production of William Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors is without a doubt, a memorable one.

For a first time theatre-goer like me (I know I know, I need to get out more) it was an absolute joy to watch a text I’d been studying for my English Literature degree to suddenly come alive – and in such a brilliant way too.

Directed by Edward Hall with a fresh and compelling outlook on the entire play, the chemistry between Antipholus of Syracuse and Dromio of Syracuse was instantaneous and so very infectious – the two males as both characters and actors bounced off one another, creating a distinctly Syracusian presence on stage. Later, when Dromio of Ephesus and Antipholus of Ephesus appear on stage, the two sets of twins were easily identifiable. For the audience, there simply was no room for error.

The all-male cast – which admittedly, I was apprehensive about – has done what I feel a balanced female and male cast may not have achieved. With the men so blatantly adopting the female roles and evoking laughter from the onset, the audience is served a farcical comedy on a neatly embellished platter and made to laugh their hearts out. There are no serious or sinister themes underlying this adaptation of the play as Propeller make it clear what they were trying to achieve – a quirky and markedly unique outlook at one of Shakespeare’s funniest works.

Main highlights:

Adrianna
John Tucker as Adrianna.
(Photo credit: propeller.org.uk)

Adrianna’s entrance as she walks on stage with a bright yellow coat, leopard bandanna in her hair and printed leggings to match. Oozing sophistication in his depiction of Adrianna, Tucker is by far the finest actor to grace the stage, depicting her as the shrew and jealous housewife in an exaggerated and absolutely hilarious style and manner. My favourite moment was the portrayal of the line “my blood is mingled with the crime of lust”, where Adrianna is shown kneeling helplessly on the floor and shouting in frankly the most outrageous way. Not to forget the moment when she chases Antipholus of Syracuse in her nightgown, complete with a whip in her hand. Kinky.

The Comedy Of Errors
(Left) Matthew Pearson as the Courtesan.
(Photo credit: rosetheatrekingston.org)

The entrance of the courtesan is laugh-out-loud hilarious. Complete with sexy entrance music, a Geordie accent (a brilliant touch!) bunny ears, a complimentary tail and rather prominent breasts, Pearson transforms the role of a courtesan to one that adds a further comic element to the already effective adaptation.  If the courtesan is easily dismissed in the text, then Propeller only heighten her importance in their interpretation.

Dr Pinch.  What an ENTRANCE. Sending jolts of electricity to the cast on-stage, Brockis arrives and adds a completely new and well needed dynamic to the play. Electrifying the cast as well as the audience, Pinch is depicted as an American preacher-type, a large cross hanging from his neck and a booming, gospel-like voice.  With the organ music playing in the background and the on-stage actirs now enacting a gospel sing-a-long and dance, Propeller yet again transform The Comedy of Errors into a laugh-riot. This is a modern adapatation of Dr.Pinch at its finest.

My Mexican friends/extras.
(Photo credit: secure.theatreroyalnorwich.co.uk)

…and lastly, creating the music, providing the ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and generally being swell guys – my Mexican, football-shirt wearing, sombrero-rocking friends. You guys were awesome.

Funny, witty and brilliantly original… a truly masterful adaptation. ★★★★★

Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby”: review.

 

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Always ahead of the times, I have finally managed to watch the film adaptation everyone has been talking about. Based on the novel that I have fallen in love with over the last three years or so, The Great Gatsby has caused a surge amongst film critics and the viewing public in general, as Baz Luhrmann puts a modern and refreshing spin on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s timeless literary classic.

For those of you who haven’t read the novel, I highly recommend that before spending money on your cinema ticket, you spend a good few days trying to read the book. However, this should be the case for any film adaptation of a novel – it is well worth grappling with the beauty of the words on the page before venturing in to watch a movie which just looks cool. It is evident to all lovers of The Great Gatsby that the novel already has an unexplainable, special quality about it that the movie will never achieve – these were also my preconceived notions. I began watching the movie believing that it simply could not match up to the wonderful novel that is my Gatsby. Yes, I actually call it this. Over the years, let’s say I have formed quite the emotional bond with it.

However, I watched it, and was left with sheer happiness in my heart, and of course, sorrow at the ending (which, by the way, was beautifully depicted). So, I now dive into my review of The Great Gatsby. It’s not going to professional and will probably be slightly disordered. Enjoy.

I’ll start off with some negative aspects and get these out of the way so we can get to the good bits. The narration of Nick Carraway in the movie is something I thought was a bit disappointing. In the novel, he is a by-stander and narrator, but of course a film adaptation requires a back-story of some sort for the narrator…yet I was a little let down by Nick’s. He seemed to suffering from some sort of mental instability, rendered slightly mad and talking to a psychiatrist about his issues, and of course, predominantly about Gatsby. I didn’t quite understand why this happened, as he didn’t seem that unstable when narrating everything, and he definitely didn’t seem like he needed to be in an environment where he was given a patient’s journal in order to record his thoughts, which then spiralled into a complete re-telling of the events of that unfortunate summer. I guess I would have liked to see him somewhat reflective yet happy, healthy, and in an environment which was hopeful, full of promise. Here, he just seemed depressed beyond measure. It took away from his narration in the novel. On the other hand, I guess Luhrmann was emphasising the impact of Gatsby’s death on the only man who stayed loyal to him, even on his deathbed. With this view in mind, it becomes quite touching that Nick has been so emotionally jolted by the events. Nonetheless, I still think it was slightly odd and could have been perfected.

I also think that Nick’s relationship with Jordan should have been touched on, if not shown properly. In the movie, there was no indication that there was a romantic relationship between the two. This was a little disappointing, because the novel is also about Nick and his quest to find and make something of himself and become someone. Of course, the protagonist we are all interested in is Gatsby himself, but this shouldn’t mean that the narrator and his journey is completely obscured. It was a little sad that his character was marginal, when actually, it is of huge significance. It was also rather irritating that the line Daisy should have said where Pammy, her daughter, “talks and eats” was given to Nick – Daisy seemed less victimized and more innocent because of this, when readers of The Great Gatsby know that she is in fact, an indecisive, pretentious woman who causes chaos and leaves without even a backward glance.

Also, Gatsby’s funeral could have been more depressing. When he was squished into a coffin I felt a little annoyed. It needed less cameras and more “I’m dead and no one cared about me”.

Now, for some of the positives. Luhrmann first impressed and then blew me away by representing the 1920s Jazz Age at its best. The vibrancy and utter brilliance of the parties, the ever-lasting energy, the disorder and chaos, the strange men and women who came to Gatsby’s party without a care in the world, the dancing and singing complimented with colours bursting on the screen and forcing one to sit up and watch with eyes wide open. I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face! Nor could I allow my eyes to settle on just one man or woman – I was continually trying to absorb every single thing being shown to me, not wanting to miss out on something for fear that I’d miss out on everything. It was all shot exquisitely. The extravagance was dazzling and bizarre at the same time. The Jazz Age and its eccentricity had been embodied perfectly in every shot showing Gatsby’s magnificent parties. A zebra in the water especially caught my eye – something which wasn’t even mentioned in the novel. Additionally, the blue of the water and the way it stood out despite the sheer number of people was also a striking image, and Gatsby’s mansion in the movie outdid itself; depicted even more phenomenally than in the novel, my mouth fell open at its sheer elegance. Not only the parties, but the entire movie in general is dominated by shots depicting nature in full bloom and landscapes and settings which evoke a true sense of 1920s America and its economic boom. Even the location of the Valley of the Ashes was, to me, perfect.

The scene where Myrtle dies was also a highlight of the movie for me. The string of pearls which are ripped off her neck and scatter as she is killed by Daisy’s reckless driving are unsettling. The chaos in the scene is enough to startle anyone. However, I would have liked to see her sexuality in her death, as in the novel. She isn’t shown with her mouth wide open and her breast swinging loose…she’s just dead, and that takes away from her overtly sexual character. However, that doesn’t mean Luhrmann shows her as a woman devoid of sexuality. Her costume and the apartment scene do enough justice to her sexual candour. Leonardo Di Caprio epitomises Gatsby. He plays the role sublimely, and I cannot seem to find any fault in his portrayal of one of the most romantic literary figure to ever grace literature. Any other actor would have ruined the movie. The overall casting, in fact, demands commendation. Each character has been played by an actor or actress that reflects the descriptions in the novel and thus plays their part very well – no one seems out of place or awkward.

However, nothing got to me more than the burning green light. Gatsby is almost always linked to it in the movie, perhaps even more so than in the novel. The green light is the first image that is shown and constantly serves as a reminder of Daisy, and Gatsby’s eternal love for her. I loved that Luhrmann focused on it, keeping it within sight and staying loyal to Fitzgerald’s most significant symbol in the novel. I was also very happy with the representation of the brooding eyes of Dr T.J Eckleburg, and upon seeing the billboard showing them, felt a surge of excitement that they were given the significance that they also hold. I felt Luhrmann did justice to the descriptions in the novel, and could not find a fault with the symbolism in the movie. Even in the scene after Gatsby covers Daisy with his shirts, and then answers the telephone – a call related to his illegality – shows the swirling of the autumn leaves behind him, which foreshadow his imminent death. More than any other symbol, it was this swirling of the leaves which really caught my attention and made my heart melt a little. Their swirling and presence created for me, a sorrowful atmosphere at a time when Gatsby feels truly happy.

Lastly, the soundtrack of The Great Gatsby is immense. Never during the movie is there silence – as an audience, we receive the full impact of the roaring twenties, as the voices of Will.I.Am, Jay Z, Fergie, Lana Del Rey and Florence Welch weave in and out of the movie and enrich it. The contemporary feel of the songs somehow do not take away from the Jazz Age – you can still hear the blues and rhythms of Jazz lining the entire movie, and Lana Del Ray’s melancholic and nostalgic “Young and beautiful” creates a feeling that tugs at your heart strings. That song is the bread-winner for me. The up-tempo Jazz beats reverberate in your ears and make you want to join in with this age of excessive wealth and materialism; if you don’t feel entranced by the music, you seriously lose out on a music score that is one of the most enjoyable I have come across. Luhrmann does not get carried away with the famous voices he uses for the movie – they are placed appropriately, so as not to take away from the ensuing action and dialogue, and add to the romantic feel of the film which is inescapable. The music is effective and essential.

Overall, the movie does not disappoint. Despite some minor hiccups, it stays loyal to the novel and displays Fitzgerald’s lyrical beauty in splendid fashion on the big screen. This is a must-watch, so I’d be flocking to the cinema if I were you.

Rating: 4/5