Monday, April 9, 2012

Today I am ... ready to go back to Titanic

Titanic, 1997: Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox. Image from

Flashback to 1997.

In a packed cinema of girls watching Titanic for the third or fourth time, we are mouthing along to the script and when the credits roll and the lights come on, everyone turns to each other demanding, 'Did you cry when Jack died? Did you? How many tissues did you use?' If you didn't cry, it was clear you were a monster.

Fifteen years on, after re-living Titanic in remastered 3D, it's a similar experience. Only I feel slightly cross-eyed. This was the closest thing to the unparalleled experience of watching Titanic for the first time, the subtle use of 3D immersing you more deeply into the drama and sheer scale of the film.

But, despite some very misjudged trailers for little boys' action movies, I don't think anyone was really there for the 3D. The latest release of Titanic is about nostalgia, not only for old world decadence and innocent romance. For my generation, it's also nostalgia for the late 1990s. Before the days of texting, reality TV and Twilight. Before we all got jobs and actual relationships that weren't with a fictional, dead character.

Titanic is the ultimate antidote to modern life. In the wise words of Liam Neeson in Love Actually: "We need Kate. We need Leo. And we need them now."

Titanic, 1997: Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox Image from

I know there are a lot of haters out there, so I'll try and explain the appeal.

For me, Titanic can be forgiven any clunky dialogue and plot holes, because it is more than a film. It is part of popular culture, our generation's only Gone With the Wind moment.

We knew the dialogue by heart (and, as I learnt this week, it turns out I still do. Is that taking up valuable brain space?!). I taught myself  the piano music from the naked drawing scene with near religious determination.

Even years later, at university, one of our regular haunts was a nightclub on a boat, originally dubbed The Boat. Every Monday, there would invariably be at least one drunken student clambering around on deck shouting 'I'm the king of the world!', shortly before throwing up into the Tyne.

Titanic, 1997: Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox. Image from

Just what is it about Titanic? In a word - Jack.

While the boys in our class sported bowl haircuts and threw footballs at our heads, Jack Dawson was a true hero. He represented freedom, fun and romance. We wanted him to whisk us away from double maths and take us on rollercoasters and teach us how to ride horses and spit like a man.

Apparently we had a lucky escape - the studios wanted Matthew McConaughey (eek!), but thankfully James Cameron insisted on Leonardo DiCaprio to bring Jack Dawson to life.

Did he give us unrealistic expectations of love? Probably. It was always rather disappointing on school trips to France when there was no handsome artist with floppy golden hair waiting for us at the front of the ferry. Even today, Jack and Rose's epic 3-day Great Love makes modern dating seem pretty banal and brutal. By modern standards, in the time it took Jack and Rose to fall in love, break up, reunite, plan their elopement and meet their tragic fate, we would still be waiting for him to text after the first date.

Titanic proudly wears its heart on its sleeve and is loved by millions precisely because it is so simple and void of cynicism.

Titanic, 1997: Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox. Image from
Titanic, 1997: Paramount Pictures, 20th Century Fox. Image from

Once upon a time, Titanic was very nearly ruined for me when a former housemate and their other half decided to put it on full blast at 1am, in a failed attempt to mask some more dubious sounds... Fortunately I managed to repress the slightly disturbing memory and love it more than ever today.

Of course the criticism is understandable; it's no doubt a flawed film. I still love James Horner's haunting score, but whoever okayed Celine Dion to sing the theme has a lot to answer for. And the enormous floating door that Rose refuses to share with Jack looks even bigger in 3D.

But none of that matters. There's magic between the young Kate and Leo - in the lively dancing scene at the Irish steerage party, for example, or when Rose leaps off the lifeboat and they share an emotional reunion on the stairs ("You jump, I jump, right?"). The sinking scenes are every bit as horrifying, spectacular and chilling now as they were fifteen years ago. I asked a male friend of mine what his favourite bit is, to which he replied: "When the man hits the propeller." Nice.

We all know which bit he means though, and it's a classic example of how Titanic will stay with you long after you take off your 3D glasses.

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