‘Titanic’ is a love story that captures the romance of two young lovers as the tragedy of the doomed vessel, RMS Titanic, unfolds around them. It was released in 1997 and was a great commercial and critical success, winning 11 Academy Awards (the first to do so since ‘Ben Hur’) and 3 Grammys.
It was was written, directed, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron, who also won the Academy Award for best director. ‘Titanic’ became the highest grossest movie of all time, earning $1.8 billion at the box office, until it was surpassed in 2010 by ‘Avatar’, another movie by James Cameron.
The story concerns two young people from different social classes – Leonardo DiCaprio appears as Jack Dawson and Kate Winslet has the role of Rose DeWitt Bukater – who fall in love while aboard the doomed maiden voyage of the Titanic in 1912. Although the love story is fictitious, many of the characters – crew and passengers – were based on those who were actually aboard the real vessel.
For instance, the brash Margaret “Molly” Brown (played by Kathy Bates) was famous for her heroic efforts (not shown in the movie) of trying to save drowning passengers. She later became known as the “Unsinkable Molly Brown”.
There were many scenes in the movie, although only briefly touched on, which added greatly to the emotional impact of the inevitable sinking on passengers and crew. Two historical characters were Isador and Ida Strauss. Isador was a former owner of R.H. Macy and Company and was also a former NY Congressman. In the movie, his wife Ida has a chance of leaving the ship in a lifeboat but declines and returns to her husband, saying she will honor her wedding vow and remain with Isidor. She is last seen embracing him as they lie on a bed in their stateroom, with the water rushing in.
Layers of emotion are added with other scenes that depict obvious heroism by crew members. Joseph Bell, the Chief Engineer, and his men work desperately until the last moments to maintain the power for lights and so distress signals can be sent. All are lost.
Wallace Hartley, the bandmaster, and his orchestra, continue to play uplifting music to the very end, even as the ship sinks.
The two lovers, Rose and Jack, initially come together when he rescues her from a suicide attempt brought about by her despondency at a loveless engagement, having been pressured to marry a wealthy suitor, Cal, because of her family’s financial needs.
Jack is scorned as inferior by Rose’s mother and Cal but he does manage to attend a stuffy first-class dinner, where he renews his acquaintance with Rose and their bond deepens.
The next day, Rose defies her mother and Cal and goes to the bow of the ship where she meets Jack, realizes her feelings for him and the two passionately embrace. They then go to the privacy of Rose’s stateroom and she asks him to sketch her wearing only the Heart of the Ocean, a blue diamond necklace which was an expensive engagement gift from Cal. She later leaves the sketch in Cal’s safe.
While attempting to escape from Cal’s bodyguard, Rose and Jack enter the cargo hold where they enter one of the cars stored there and make love on the back seat.
They witness the collision with the iceberg and overhear the lookouts discussing how serious it is. Rose and Jack decide to warn her mother and Cal but, in the meantime, Cal has discovered the nude sketch of Rose and furiously plants the necklace on Jack; then accuses him of stealing it. Jack is arrested and taken below deck, where he is handcuffed to a pipe.
The emotional elements of the ‘Titanic’ are very powerful, with the later scenes showing the aftermath of the collision, the desperate attempts of those aboard to find shelter on a lifeboat, or the brave acceptance of their fate. As there were not enough lifeboats, more than 1500 passengers and crew perished in this catastrophe. Throughout, the musical score strongly reflects their feelings and the dangers they face. The closing song, ‘My Heart Will Go On’ (sung by Celine Dion) won an Academy Award and two Grammies. Following the success of ‘Avatar’, a 3-D version of ‘Titanic’ will also be released.