As you know, the 3-hour-14-minute film "Titanic" is no
mere disaster movie. It's an epic love story about a 17-yearold
American aristocrat who is betrothed to a rich and hateful
suitor but falls in love with a free-spirited artist, who won his
third-class passage in a card game. It's "Romeo and Juliet"
on a sinking ship and has become an international sensation.
"Titanic" is also a movie about money and its evils. With
fine irony, Cameron has spent more dollars than any other
filmmaker to make a film that denounces the rich.
The $8,4 million costume budget alone would finance
several independent movies. Production designer Peter
Lamont copied the real Titanic down to the exact shade of
green on the chairs in the smoking lounge.
The sumptuous sets have made-to-order replicas of the china, the stained-glass windows — and since all of it was going to be
destroyed, nothing could be rented. "To the best of our
knowledge, there was no violation of historical truth", says
Cameron. "We have a great responsibility. Whatever we make,
will become the truth, the visual reality that a generation will
accept", says Cameron.
The special effects are in the service of the story. In the
80-minute sinking of the ship, you don't wonder what's real
and what's computer-generated. What you feel is the horror
of the experience, the depths of the folly that left this
"unsinkable" ship so vulnerable to disaster. While the women
and children are loaded into lifeboats (there were only
enough for half the 2,200 passengers), the third-class passengers
Cameron makes terrifying poetry out of chaos with
images of the ship breaking in half, the deck rising
perpendicular to the water as passengers bounce off the
ships's giant propellers into the freezing ocean.
But it is the love between the unhappy Rose and the
sanguine, openhearted Jack that occupies stage center. Is it
the great love story Cameron so desperately wanted to make?
Not quite. Visually, his lovers are an odd match: next to
DiCaprio's boyish beauty, Kate Winslet looks womanly. And
once the disaster strikes, their individual fates become
overwhelmed by the communal horror. Our hearts, at least,
couldn't but break once these lovestruck kids were surrounded
by floating frozen corpses.
Cameron's strength is in painting canvases with broad
strokes, and for 194 minutes beholds you in his grip. This
is one grand entertainment — old-fashioned filmmaking
brought up to date with the most spectacular technology
Cameron says today that if he had known what it would
take to bring his vision to the screen, he would have stopped
before he started. But "regret" is not in the guy's vocabulary.
1. What is "Titanic" about?
2. Did Peter Lamount copy the real Titanic?
3. What do you feel when you watch the film?
4. What does J. Cameron make of chaos?
5. What occupies stage center of the film?
6. What does Cameron say today?