The Great Gatsby (2013 Film)

The Great Gatsby (2013 Film) Imagery

Gatsby's House

The film is about the decadence and excess of wealth in 1920s America, so it seems fitting that a central image of the film would be Gatsby's gargantuan mansion. The house is huge and filled with expensive objects, furniture and art deco designs, and its exterior looks more like a Disney fairy tale castle than a private residence. The way that the house is shot, often in sweeping pans from above and below, highlights its scale and makes the viewer feel the same awe that Nick feels upon seeing it. The house represents just how badly Gatsby desires to climb to the top in order to win the affections of Daisy. He purchases a castle for his princess, Daisy. The house is unthinkably large and filled with servants. The parties that take place in the house are epic, with throngs of people filing through and performances taking place in different rooms and exterior areas. The house also represents the fact that Gatsby's money is "new money," i.e. newly acquired. While the mansion is lavish and gigantic, it is not tasteful or stately like the Buchanan estate, which is located in the more "old money" East Egg.

The Green Light

In the film—as in the novel—there is a green electric light that is always shining at the end of the Buchanan's dock. We see it shining through the mist of the harbor; even when there is a great deal of fog, the green light shines on. Gatsby's mansion is directly across the harbor from Daisy's home and he can always see the light. The green light becomes a symbol of Gatsby's longing for Daisy, and we see its pulsing light throughout. It is a bright electric green in an otherwise gray seascape. It becomes more obscured by fog at different points in the film, representing the ways that Gatsby is losing his grasp of the situation, and by extension, access to Daisy.

Valley of Ashes

Nick describes the Valley of Ashes as "a grotesque place" when it is first introduced. Indeed, it is the polar opposite of the affluent Long Island communities of East Egg and West Egg. It is a dusty, industrial, and soot-covered place. In Baz Luhrmann's imagination, the abject landscape of the Valley of Ashes is almost post-apocalyptic, as workers covered in ashes and oil trudge through the gray town. The Valley of Ashes, and its extreme poverty, shows the huge contrast between rich and poor in New York at the time. Its unsavory aspects illuminate the ways that the poor live in squalor, while the rich look down on them. Tom and Daisy Buchanan have no regard for the people who live there, ultimately running away from the death of Myrtle to go on an extended vacation until the scandal blows over. The dinginess of the Valley of Ashes is a way for the wealthier characters to justify their disregard for its inhabitants.


Colors are used within the film to convey different thematic ideas. For example, Daisy always seems to be dressed in the color white, and when we first meet her, it is in a room with giant white curtains which flood the frame of the camera. White symbolizes her purity and innocence. Although we later find that Daisy is far from innocent, this represents how Gatsby and others idealizes her and put her on a pedestal as a pure person.

Yellow is another color used to represent themes in the plot. Yellow can symbolize many different ideas, such as innocence, hope, and also corruption. Gatsby's car is bright yellow, a flashy choice which both betrays him as being a member of the "new money" crowd, and simultaneously symbolizes his optimistic hope and his corruption (having made his money through bootlegging). In addition to his yellow car, Gatsby's pink suit also reveals him to be a poseur. When making a case for the fact that Gatsby cannot possibly have attended Oxford, Tom points out his pink suit, which symbolizes a tackier kind of wealth. An Oxford man, or someone who comes from respectable wealth, would never wear something as flamboyant and flashy as a pink suit. The colors of Gatsby's wardrobe reveal his pretensions and his inauthenticity as a wealthy man.