Friday, 24 October 2008

movie: Titanic

The most recent version of Titanic the movie -- Titanic the mega-movie -- has copped a lot of flack over the years, primarily for its schmaltzy soundtrack and love story. But I think its criticisers have missed the point.

The movie is not about Leonardo and Kate at all. It's so much bigger. It's the story of a ship -- a magnificent feat of engineering for the time. It's a story about human arrogance and bravery and selfishness and selflessness. It's about seizing the moment and making every second count. It's about how people act under extreme pressure. It's about individual acts of heroism.

Leonardo and Kate are only there to tie the whole thing together. 'Rich girl meets poor boy' allowed the movie to explore the massive class element on Titanic. First class passengers enjoyed fine china, private promenade decks, cigars and brandy. Steerage class, on the other hand, slept four to a cabin and weren't allowed to enter certain parts of the ship. The story of Jack and Rose is merely a symbol.

There are so many scenes that make me feel extremely emotional, and not one of them is about L&K. There's the scene I'm watching now, when the string quartet, playing on the deck of the sinking ship disband and then one by one come back to play that famous song (??), while individuals show acts of heroism -- Fabricio the Italian cutting the ropes of one of the lifeboats, a mother reading her children to sleep as the room fills with water, Mr Andrews, the ship's designer, standing on his own, setting a clock to the time the ships goes down.

But as much as anything, it's about the ship. My favourite scene is early on in the film, when the captain says: "let's stretch her legs", and the command goes down to the engine room, where massive pistons pump up and down, and then the command is rung further down to the boiler room, where tens of poor souls shovel coal into the furnaces. And then there's the scene where the great propeller is raised up out of the water as the ship tilts to an almost impossible angle. Before breaking in half and sliding to the bottom of the ocean.

It's an amazing movie. I believe I saw it three times in the cinema. But in many ways it's been a guilty pleasure. In fact, I think I might have persuaded myself to believe the negative hype. But tonight I've watched it for the first time in years, and from the moment it first started rolling, I remembered everything I loved about it. And I don't even mind the Jack and Rose storyline.

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