Apr 16, 2012

Titanic (1997) / the world's greatest love story, or what?

directed by James Cameron / starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, Gloria Stuart, Bernard Hill, Kathy Bates

To write a post about Titanic. What an intimidating, yet alluring thought! I have decided to take on the challenging, yet inevitable task. This will probably take a very long time... And yes, it did: I began writing this post in September 2010; and I try not to rewrite much because it's interesting to see how my perception of the film has changed since then (good luck trying to guess which parts I wrote just now and which in 2010 or in between...). With the rereleased 3D version now playing in theathres, this was the perfect time to finally finish this post. I don't know if I could ever say enough about Titanic, or ever find the right words to express what it means to me, but here's my best shot.

It's been 84 years, and I can still smell the fresh paint. The china had never been used. The sheets had never been slept in. Titanic was called the Ship of Dreams, and it was. It really was.

 Every has their own Titanic story. This is mine: When the film came out, back in 1997, I wasn't old enough to see it in cinema (my parents made sure of that), so I just bitterly listened to my Spice Girls cassettes and tried to shut out everyone around me, going on and on about this cool new movie and Leonardo DiCaprio. When I finally saw Titanic on my twelfth birthday, the counterreaction had already begun, and it wasn't that cool to like it anymore. And anyway, I didn't understand much about films back then. I must have been about 15 or 16, when I watched Titanic for the first time in years, and actually saw what they had been fussing about back in the 90s. Since then, I've watched the film regularly, somehow growing more and more fond of it everytime. It just never seems to get old. Every time I watch it, I feel just as strongly as the last time. If there indeed will be a day when I'll outgrow Titanic, it won't be anytime soon. I can see myself still weeping over the story when I'm 80.
 God himself could not sink this ship.

Titanic is a huge film, a great film, and anyone saying something else is still stuck with that counterreaction. Yes, I can accept that it is not for everybody's taste. Yes, I can accept that the love story is a bit much for some people. Yes, I can accept that some see the story and certain scenes as corny and sappy. And yes, I know some people think it's insuperably unrealistic that, for example, Rose didn't die of hypothermia, but come on; it was established a long time ago that being a major character in a film gives you an edge in what you can live through. Just shut it, haters. I ain't gonna listen to no haters.

While I understand (though not necessarily agree with) the criticism, I don't understand or accept the dismissive attitudes many people have towards Titanic, JUST because there is a love story. All that "the most expensive chick flick in history" crap. It's just as much a historical portrayal of a time and an event as it is a love story. It is fucking annoying and so offensive that if something attracts unusually lot of attention from young girls or women, it's immediately labeled as trash. Makes me furious. But ha ha, you stinky little haters. God himself could not sink this movie, and that's a fact.

Ah, forget it, boyo. You're as like to have angels fly out your arse as get next to the likes of her.

Kate is such a babe as Rose. Of course, Kate is always a babe, and actually so much more than just a babe, she's amazing and incredible and awesome. But Kate as Rose is a real package. That wavy red hair, those rosy lips and cheeks, that curvy figure, and that enviably gorgeous wardrobe. On the count to three, name your favourite Rose outfit! One, two, three, the white light pink/light blue one she wears on the night of the lovemaking and the accident! Contender number two is the dark red dress, with all the lace and the exquisite embroidery and the white gloves, the one she wears for the dinner and the "real party" in the steerage. And there are more favourites, but better leave it at that. (The dress in the picture does belong to those favourites, though.)

Rose might be my all-time number one movie beauty, but there is more to the character than her gorgeous looks. Her unwillingness to fall into the mold desingned for her, and to do what's expected of her makes her a very special, empowering female character. Of course she has her damsel-in-distress moments, and she only gets the chance to grow into an incredible, independent woman because a certain gentleman comes along, but there is admirable strenght and fearlessness in Rose all along (I'm all the time writing "Kate" instead of "Rose"...). You go, girl, fight that stupid 1910s discriminating class and gender role system!

You have a gift, Jack. You see people.

While Kate is clearly the star of the film, the rest of the cast shines, too. There's really no one who wouldn't give a satisfactory performance. Everyone from Bernard Hill's Captain Smith, the horrible Cal and the awesome Unsinkable Molly to the crew members, snooty rich people and the little boy who cries for his father in the flooding hallway (hello, tear streams), they all do a great, convincing job, bringing alive a variety of interesting characters; some based on real people, some not, but they all make me want to know their backstories, how they ended up on Titanic and what happened to them.

And Leo, oh, Leo. Leo is such a little boy. A damn cute one, though! I can't understand how come I never had a crush on Leo's Jack when I was younger, and on the age when I practically had a crush on everything that moved and resembled a man. I almost feel like having a crush on him now, for crying out loud! If only I hadn't overgrown all that foolishness by now... Ahem. Ok let's change the subject.

When the ship docks, I'm getting off with you.
This is crazy.
I know. It doesn't make any sense. That's why I trust it.

The lines above are probably my favourite lines of the whole film. Those are the last words they say before the tiny little iceberg incident, after which everything begins to go straight towards hell. This is the last happy moment. Often in an epicly epic film like Titanic the characters are easily shadowed and overruled by all that epicness. You're just 'WHOA THAT'S FREAKING EPIC!!' all the time and don't really mind if the characters are blown up or torn to pieces, because that'll give a good opportunity for some more epicness.

Iceberg, right ahead!

 However, when watching Titanic, when the moment I know will once again end all the joy and happiness is inevitably approaching, I want to freeze the frame right there and pretend they lived happily ever after. Because I genuinely care about the characters. Sometimes when watching the movie recently I've almost felt a kind of an anxiety - like I wanted to jump through the screen and single-handedly help the ship turn the couple of extra metres and avoid the damn iceberg and give Jack and Rose their happily ever after they so much deserved. Maybe I should get a shrink to tell me what conclusions I should draw of this kind of behaviour? Oh well, maybe he'd just say I've watched the film a few times too many and am forgetting that there's no use jumping through the screen for rescue because the ship already sank a century ago. And that maybe Jack and Rose never really deserved the happily ever after, because ultimately the relationship wouldn't have worked anyway. We've seen Revolutionary Road, right? They would've ended up cheating, bored and pissed off, anyway! ... Okay, now I'm just kidding. Jack + Rose = true freaking love! (Ok. This I wrote sometime in 2010-2011. I'll get back to the topic later, with some new points of view.)

 Well, I believe you may get your headlines, Mr. Ismay.

I believe you did, too, Mr. Cameron... Or have you established the name "King of the World" already? Hah. I don't like James Cameron. I think he seems greedy and arrogant and unpleasant, and it's a shame, really, that he happened to make this one great movie, because otherwise I'd be free to dislike him all I want. Oh well. I will forgive him some of his greed, because this one special thing happened to come out of it. Just cancel the Avatar sequel and I'll forgive you some more! Hmh? Maybe I'll forgive you for making the first Avatar? Sound good? No? Didn't think so. You greedy bastard. Well, if you'll excuse me, I need to go on and praise your film some more.

You jump, I jump, right?

Titanic is full of legendary scenes and iconic lines. Everyone has moments in their lifes when they feel like going, "I'm the king of the world!", or "I'm flying, Jack!". Seriously, tell me you've never recreated those moments yourself? Haha. I'm just waiting for the day when I get to spit a "I'd rather be his whore than your wife" at somebody's face. That'd be epic!

All those legendary moments, and the whole story, reallly, have obviously spawned countless parodies, some better than others. All the same, it all proves that Titanic is one of the biggests things in popular culture, EVER. It is always safe to joke about and refer to the movie, because everyone has seen it. Really, everyone. If there is one movie that you can assume all the people in the room have seen, it's Titanic. Titanic is just that big. (This section also could've had "Freud, who is he? Is he a passenger?" as a headline. Haha.)

I'll never let go, Jack. I promise.

Titanic is a special film for me. It's one of my ultimate favourites. Some days I feel like it's THE favourite. Oftentimes it duels over the first place with Lord of the Rings. Lord of the Rings usually wins, but, granted, mostly because I actually like Peter Jackson a lot. Sorry, Jim Cameron. Your loss. Ha! I know. That really must have broken his heart.

Anyways. Number one favourite or not, Titanic rules, and it has always been a significant part of my life as a film fanatic, and it remains so. I'll never let it go.

Dawson. Rose Dawson.
Finally, here is something that has recently (actually recently, as in April 2012 recently) occured to me about Titanic. It is not really a tragedy. Um, okay, strike that. I don't think I can get away with saying something like that about a story where 1500 people die. What I meant was, the tragedy is not that Jack dies and so him and Rose don't get to have a life together. The tragedy is that a life was lost to save another. As we know, Jack saved Rose, in every way that a person can be saved. Without Jack, she would've either jumped to her death from the back of Titanic that night, or lived on to marry Cal and to eventually end her miserable life in some other way.

So, that the paths of those two people came together was crucial to the survival of Rose. Now, what if Jack and Rose both had survived the accident (and they might have, Jack too, had Rose gone with that second life boat Jack and Cal put her in; really, think about it!) and, like they'd planned, run off to build a life together? Maybe they would've been happy, right? Then again, maybe they indeed would've turned into that Revolutionary Road couple I was joking about earlier. I mean, they did not really know each other, or really love each other. Obviously they fell in love, in the way people often do, meaning they were intensely attracted and drawn to each other; but they did not have time (they knew each other for like three days, after all) to grow into love; not the epic, romantic kind of love, but the deep caring kind of love that comes out of years and years of mutual life. I mean, haven't we all experienced those sudden, epic, forceful emotions, when a young, silly heart thinks it knows what it wants and needs? Epic is epic, but epic is also unrealistic.

I'm not saying Jack and Rose did not care about each other, because evidently they did. He filled a void in her painfully empty life, and I'm certain she was just the person he wanted to have on his side in his last moments, just the person he was happy to die for. But the complicated, real life beyond the decks and halls and cargo holds of Titanic might have ruined that young, innocent, perfectly blooming love.

I am sure Rose did grow to really, deeply love Jack; at least the memory of Jack. But it's not like she was never able to let him go and love again. Her heart came to life thanks to Jack, but it didn't die with Jack.

In that way, it is not a tragedy that Jack died and Rose had to go on without him. He had already lived quite a life, while she was stuck in a path where she couldn't find happiness. Ending up on that ship together was the best thing that ever happened to both of them. Jack died, but got to experience something amazing in the last days of his life. And his death had a noble purpose that made it count, and he died knowing that. Rose went on, like Jack as his dying wish asked her to. She never let go, and lived a full, happy life.

Before, I looked at Titanic as the world's greatest love story. But now, I guess, I look at it more as the story of how Rose was saved. I don't know, maybe this is the way everyone else has always viewed the story, but this was kind of an epiphany for me. Maybe I'm just slow. Or maybe I've been too blinded by the epic romance to see the bigger picture.

...Or maybe I've just turned into a cynical old woman, who doesn't believe in epic romance anymore. Haha. (If only... I wrote this previous part some days before I went to see the movie in cinema, and afterwards I almost felt like erasing the whole thing. Screw the mature and sensible and realistic definitions of love! I just can't help it, the Titanic romance still gets me, and it gets me so hard. And god damn my pitifully romantic self, but I fell in love while they fell in love, felt their passion and excitement, and was happy to do so. Surely it is not the best love story ever, or anything, but when it comes to epic, larger than life, mindblowing love, there's no topping Jack and Rose. I so want to be eighteen and fall epicly, even if momentarily, in love and run around a luxorious ship doing things and feeling things I've never done or felt before! Yes! Epic is good, epic is great! Let's just skip the iceberg.)

A woman's heart is a deep ocean of secrets. But now you know there was a man named Jack Dawson and that he saved me... in every way that a person can be saved. I don't even have a picture of him. He exists now... only in my memory.


Nora of Alusvaatteet Verkkokauppa said...

I don't know why, but when i saw this movie (long time ago) at cinema, i laugh like hell. yes i can find funny and hilarious moment in drama movie. So a girl in front of me, stand up and wanted to slap me because i laugh... she was crying.

Eeva said...

Haha, well I might have actually slapped you, you know! ;D I'm always one of the weepers.

Anonymous said...

as a guy and straight lol this movie just reminds myself how much in love i am with my girlfriend of 10 years ( im 23) if u cant atleast feel sum type of emotion from it ur not human...corny movie yes but at the same time u cant help but love it