Film Talk: Looking Back – Boarding the 'Ship of Dreams' with Titanic
Oscars weekend is here, and this week we're going to honour one of the biggest gong-raking behemoths of all time.
With an initial worldwide gross of over $1.84 billion, it was the first film to reach the billion-dollar mark. Winner of 11 Oscars, it ties the immortal Ben-Hur and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King for the most won to date by a single movie. And, perhaps most importantly, for 25 years it has turned the bows of cruise ships across the world into stages for a very particular impression. We are all flying, Jack...
Directed, written and co-produced by the incredible James Cameron, 1997’s Titanic changed the face of the epic romance and disaster flick forever.
Incorporating both historical and fictionalised aspects, it is based on accounts of the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as members of different social classes who fall in love aboard the ship during its doomed maiden voyage. Cameron’s inspiration for the film supposedly had its genesis in the fabled director’s fascination with shipwrecks, and his feeling that a love story interspersed with human loss would be critical to convey the emotional impact of the disaster.
Production of the film began in 1995, when Cameron shot footage of the actual Titanic wreck. The modern scenes on the research vessel were shot on board the Akademik Mstislav Keldysh, which Cameron had used as a base when filming the wreck. Scale models, computer-generated imagery, and a reconstruction of Titanic built at Baja Studios were used to re-create the catastrophic sinking.
As the most expensive film ever made at the time, Titanic would go on to both stun and break the hearts of audiences the world over...
Deep-sea explorer Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) is bent on finding a treasure rumoured to have been lost aboard world-famous ocean liner, the ill-fated RMS Titanic.
Locating a safe on-board believed to contain the rare blue diamond known as ‘The Heart of the Ocean’, Brock discovers that the safe does not hold the diamond, but in fact a drawing of a beautiful young woman wearing it.
When Brock is later interviewed on TV, he shows the drawing to the cameras, and a 100-year-old woman named Rose Calvert (Gloria Stuart) recognizes the drawing as a portrait of herself.
On a visit to Brock’s ship over the wreck, Rose tells her story of Titanic and its doomed voyage.
Engaged to a would-be steel magnate, Cal Hockley (Billy Zane), the young Rose (Winslet) boards Titanic with him and her mother (Frances Fisher) as a first-class passenger. Also boarding the ‘Ship of Dreams’ is Jack Dawson (DiCaprio), who after a lucky poker game has won a steerage ticket.
When alarming circumstances lead to their meeting, a bond between Jack and Rose is forged, much to the horror of Hockley and Rose’s mother. Each engage in desperate measures to keep them apart – tactics that become redundant as the ship collides with an iceberg and the unthinkable begins to happen.
Jack and Rose must now fight together for their lives, but will their love be enough to save them?
Upon its release, Titanic achieved monumental critical and commercial success. It remained the highest-grossing film of all time until Cameron’s Avatar surpassed it in 2010, and a 3D version of the film, released in 2012 to commemorate the centennial of the sinking, earned it an additional $343.6 million worldwide, pushing the film’s worldwide total to $2.18 billion. In 2017, the film was re-released for its 20th anniversary and was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
To state that Titanic represented a milestone achievement in filmmaking would be to under-sell it atrociously. Cameron’s vision and direction brought to life and paid tribute to one of the modern world’s most lamented disasters in an astonishing way. It did so with emotion and adrenaline, yet also with taste and dignity, and gave us a heartbreaking glimpse of one of the most unfortunate tragedies of the last century.
As always (and as we know, my man-crush on him knows no bounds), DiCaprio is sublime, complemented by a sterling turn from Winslet.
A modern cinematic classic of the highest order, like the ship for which it was named, Titanic shines as a wonder of immense proportions to this day.