Cinema captures the age it represents in the form of montages and the conscious choice of costumes, sets and even the language represented; this can be spoken language or musical language. The Great Gatsby and Parable of the sower are similar in that they are cinema pieces that have a novel as their source text. We consider these two novel adaptations as sample texts that represent the epoch they represent in their storytelling. The difference is that the former has had many episodes in the film world, while the first version of the latter is only in production for the first time. The special features of Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation of The Great Gatsby that will be elaborated in this article while the language will be speculative to ponder Parable of the sower as a representative of the fictional years 2024-2027 (closer to us than when Octavia E Butler wrote it) that it will eventually portray in the upcoming film.
The Roaring Twenties
Baz Luhrmann’s 3D version of F. Scott Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsby is a wonderful combination of realism and romance. The realism of the film stems from its faithful portrayal of the Jazz Age New York it is in, as well as the way the story unfolds. The romance, on the other hand, is concentrated in the character of the protagonist Jay Gatsby, who becomes incredibly rich through illegal activities.
Let’s look at the elements that connect Luhrmann’s film to the Roaring Twenties.
Like its literary counterpart, the 2013 film embraces and makes all the hallmarks of the Roaring Twenties – the easy money, the cheap, readily available booze that defied Prohibition, the plentiful sex, and the unholy connection between Wall Street and the underworld – its own. Luhrmann obviously stayed close to the novel, we see the same characters, the same city and the same locations, everything takes place in the summer of 1922.
The Great Gatsby and Jazz Age Music
Few books are more reminiscent of the age of jazz than The Great Gatsby, and the Soundtrack of the film, which plays a role almost as important as the protagonist himself, successfully translates this onto the screen.
The film’s music is based on the 1920s but has a modern twist, a remarkable mix of traditional jazz and modern hip-hop, with pieces by Jay-Z, The xx, Lana Del Ray and jazz tunes by the Bryan Ferry Orchestra. The music is soulful with a classical background, but also appeals to a younger audience. The harmonies go back to the music of the jazz age and are heavily influenced by Paul Whiteman, Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson and Bix Beiderbecke.
One of the main reasons Luhrmann used hip-hop in the film’s soundtrack was Fitzgerald’s own fascination with everything new, exciting, and avant-garde. He argues that if jazz were used in the novel to evoke a sense of avant-garde novelty, a modern film adaptation could well highlight those elements through music that is new and innovative right now. However, the soundtrack manages to avoid the curious feeling that inevitably accompanies a score with completely contemporary music, while successfully conveying the same emotional impact the scandalous party scenes had on today’s audience that they would have had on the audience in the 1920s .
Jazz Age Fashion in The Great Gatsby
Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsby basically deals with a historical period in which fashion has radically changed. Older women wore dresses to their ankles, while young girls scandalously (for the time) wore clothes that many thought were little better than underwear. The Roaring Twenties were a decade in which fashion was nothing but loud and outrageous.
And the film certainly reflects the extravagant clothing choices of the time. The clothes are reminiscent of the twenties and transfer the luxury of the book into the film. It was a time when men could delight in their looks and dress like birds of paradise. Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a dandy – tuxedo, three-piece suit and striped regatta blazer are de rigueuras well as monogrammed cufflinks, watches, cufflinks and walking sticks for accessories. He uses his clothes as another way to display his wealth and importance.
The other male characters, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) and Tom Buchanan (Joel Edgerton) also dress in contemporary Brooks Brothers clothing. The ladies are unbeatable in bling; they shimmer in brightly colored silk dresses and bristle with pearls and diamonds. The passion for 1920s jewelry is shown in the film – hair accessories, layered pieces, long necklaces, multi-strand pearl bracelets, cuffs, crystal-embellished dresses – all evoke the opulence and elegance of Jazz Age fashion.
Another fashion trend of the 1920s was the increasing popularity of sportswear for everyday wear. Sporty fashions like tennis white and cricket sweaters came to the fore of fashion, which is portrayed in some of the scenes by Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio).
Undoubtedly the traditional-modern soundtrack and the gaudy, dazzling costumes of Baz Luhrmanns The Great Gatsby, skillfully capture the rough mood of the Jazz Age affair with thoughtless euphoria.
Parable of the sower
The dystopian fictional novel Parable of the sower is known as Octavia E Butler’s most widely read novel and one that boasts a fantasy that cemented the writing of black women in the unlikely genre of science fiction. Not only was this unlikely because the number of black science fiction writers was very low in 1993 (the year of publication), but the novel’s protagonist is a young girl starting a new religion. That’s the kind of Bechdel Test-winning writing that Butler shows in the novel.
A24, the company behind the wonderful productions like Moonlight, Has bought the rights for the film adaptation of the novel. It is an interesting and important exercise of speculation to see how this novel, which gave back freedom of action and artistic empowerment to its young teenage wife, is represented through movement, sound, and images. The music, the costume, the set, everything has to work in an interesting double band. The first level of exploration would be encouraged by the fact that the novel belongs to the science fiction genre. Silvery costumes and unnecessary gadgets would be abandoned, however, as Butler embedded her idea of scientific fiction more into the characters and their drives than into dazzling and almost youthful environmental choices. The second shift would be based on what Butler saw in 1993 for 2024. The film must do justice to both categories and at the same time represent the decade 2024 from the point of view of 1993.
A cursory glance at the front pages of the various publications of the novel shows that the protagonist is always on the front page. This opens us to the fact that the stylistic choice of hair and makeup and clothing for the young protagonist sets the tone for a complementary set. In production, Parable of the sower becomes a film that could shape an era, even as the black life movement gains prominence as a movement for social justice, and this film can determine the way forward by offering us a visual aesthetic – hopefully as groundbreaking as Butler’s text.
In summary, the speculative possibilities of Parable of the sower Filming as well as a detailed reading of the 2013 film version of The Great Gatsby shows us that a film can be a great representation and documentation of the decade in which it exists or wants to imagine.
Alan is an online STEM teacher teaching K-12 students. His love for interdisciplinary education and pop cultural phenomena as a pedagogy has prompted him to blog. You can visit and follow his blog Twitter.