Just a thought...

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I saw James Cameron's "Titanic" on video about 18 months after its cinema release... I wasn't moved, or impressed to be honest.

The whole cult regarding Titanic has struck me as quite odd. Bob Ballard and his team discovered the wreck some 15 years ago now, and I remember reading avidly the articles and speculation about the tradegy. Its funny how there wasn't a Titanic phenomenom then; it takes a slushy film with a fictional romance to create any impact.

If "Titanic" was moving it was because of the fiction, not the fact. It was a story about doomed love on some ship that sank 87 years ago. I just thought it was rather tasteless. I thought "A night to remember" was a much more sensitive and moving film; I wasn't bothered by model shots and historical and technical accuracy. Cameron's film might have been accurate, but it didn't communicate the reality of 1500 drowned individuals. I couldn't search this forum for comment regarding what I think is a _much_ better film, so I'm sorry if this point has been raised before.

As someone who has always been interested in the tradegy.. I find the whole cult surrounding this film very disturbing. Why wasn't there all this interest 15 years ago? It will be interesting to see what future cultural historians make of this record-grossing film... I'm certainly baffled by its success.


-- Matthew Pope (u05mdp@abdn.ac.uk), April 20, 1999


I've been interested in the story of the real Titanic for many years, long before James Cameron made his movie about it. The real stories about the heroism and the cowardice of Titanic's various passengers has always fascinated me. When I first learned of the movie Titanic, I didn't really have much of an interest in seeing it because it was, in part, a fictional account of a real story I had followed for many years. But I heard such good things about Titanic that I went to see it in the theater. I was absolutely stunned by the sheer power and emotion it brought out in me. And it wasn't simply the fictional romance of Rose and Jack that drew me in.

For me, the "reality of 1500 drowned individuals" was in this film. TITANIC showed their stories as well as Jack and Rose's story. Some of the most emotionally devastating scenes in this film (for me at least) dealt with the "real" passengers of Titanic (wonderfully researched by Cameron). I don't think TITANIC could have meant so much to me if the reality of the sinking had not been portrayed so vividly. Like Brock Lovett, I had never really "let Titanic in"--I thank James Cameron for bringing us this wonderful movie.

-- Nonnie Parker (x96smock@wmich.edu), April 20, 1999.

To appreciate the movie's effects and cinematography completely, you need to see it on the big screen, or at least the widescreen video version with surround sound. I also saw "A Night to Remember" and am completely baffled at how anyone can say that was more moving. The reason Titanic is so successful is that there were some characters, albeit fictitious, about whom we could care. I felt the magnitude of the sinking several times, like when the camera panned away from Rose among all the hundreds in the water, and when the lifeboat came back looking for survivors. Did you notice the dead woman and infant in the water? True to history. See the baker having a drink while holding on the rail with Jack and Rose? True to history. Without central characters of J&R, it is just another ship and catastrophe. And sorry for repeating this (for you regulars), but Jack and Rose were good symbols of the passengers; almost all first class women survived while most steerage men perished. This film spurred me to read several books on the disaster and watch all the documentaries. Most would probably agree that this film has generated more interest in the true event than anything created before it. What better tribute to the victims?

-- BobG (bob@bob.bob), April 20, 1999.

Couldn't have said it better myself, BobG

-- Nonnie (x96smock@wmich.edu), April 20, 1999.

Hi Matt. I have always been fascinated by the story of TITANIC, and I had seen A NIGHT TO REMEMBER and SOS TITANIC enough times before Cameron's version came out to know how a lot of the movie TITANIC would be played out. In fact a remember thinking just how similar were the scenes in ANTR and TITANIC when Andrews was explaining to the Captain that the ship was going to sink, how and why. And later when I rewatched ANTR I saw many other scenes that were quite similar to those I'd seen in TITANIC. And, like you, although I was originally caught up in the love story, I soon decided that Cameron sacrificed too much for the fictitious. I'm not sure if you have seen the unseen footage in the TITANIC Explorer CD-ROM yet, but there were enough great historical scenes to make me angry that they were not included in the movie because Cameron had to make room for something that never happened. Although I'm sure that the movie was a success story because of the romance, I also believe that without the truth the romance would never have made TITANIC the phenomenon it was. I only regret that there wasn't more of the factual and less of the fictional.

-- Ed (E3916@aol.com), April 21, 1999.

Thanks for the responses

Can you really "let Titanic in"? The only way to do this would to expose yourself to a situation where you might end up experiencing Survivor's Guilt(a bit risky... there being no guarantee that you would survive, and it would hardly be fair on those that didn't). Or you could fill a bath with icy cold brine, turn off the lights, and drown yourself. In my opinion this is the only way one could ever "let Titanic in".

It awfully naive to think that by watching a film about an event one can even approach the reality of being there. You can get close, but you are still miles away. Bob Ballard had re-located Titanic, the Luthitania, the Bismark, and just recently the USS Yorktown. Every time he achieves these spectacular successes he makes some wishy-washy sentimental comment about what it must have been like. I'm sorry, but the only people who know what it was like to be on the Titanic, to be sunk off the Irish Coast, to be in the Battle of the Atlantic, or the Battle of Midway, were the people who were there. And all of these people were fortunate enough not to die...

I'm not convinced that seeing "Titanic" on the big screen would save the apalling characterisation, acting, and script. "Titanic" may be a technical tour de force, but Cameron's treatment of the human element(like all his films) is spectacularly awful. He is a good director, but an apalling writer. "Propeller Guy" is just an excuse to show off the digital effects suite, forget any notion about this person being a human being.

Billy Zane's character is one-dimensional melodramatic villain. He needs a top hat, cane, cape, twirly moustache and lots of rope to tie Kate Winslet under a train when he gets to New York. Maybe add some piano reel music too; anything is better than _that_ soundtrack. I'm sorry "Titanic" lovers, but surely there must be times when you think this film could have been much much better if Cameron had left the writing/coaching to someone else.

What happened to Titanic will always be remembered; the "not enough lifeboats" error is a metaphor for all sorts of things, but this film adds _nothing_ to the story. Anyone who wants to know what happened to Titanic(or the Bismark) should read Ballard's books, but give this travesty a miss.

Titanic will be an important film for its experimentation will camera angles, digital fx etx..., but as a representation of a human tragedy it fails. Good acting is getting rarer and rarer these days.. which is a pity because it is the _only_ thing that can genuinely suspend disbelief. Titanic is a good film, but it is not the greatest film ever made... people will eventually compare it to "Ben Hur"... a spectacular film, but not deserving of the contemporary hype(or its oscars)

I was just disappointed that so little effort was spent on making a convincing drama. Maybe he should have made a documentary after all.

-- Matthew (u05mdp@abdn.ac.uk), April 21, 1999.

Part II of a Media Rant Movie Marathon by Jon Katz has a mini-review of the film written during its initial run. Part III coins a word, "Britporn", which I used in the mantra, "Titanic is NOT Britporn."

-- Thomas M. Terashima (titanicshack@yahoo.com), April 21, 1999.

Give it up, Matt. These same tired criticisms have been made and refuted before elsewhere on this site. Read the various links, especially those from George Havestrom III, relative to JJAstor. Perhaps you two can get your rocks off together sometime.

-- Bob (bob@bob.bob), April 21, 1999.

Sorry Bob(my name has two syllables btw; I wish people would make the effort to pronounce both of them from time to time)

This site doesn't have a search facility. so I can't spend ages trawling it(I haven't got time)

I don't think my comments are particularly controversial or nasty(some of the antitanic sites out there aren't very entertaining); I just think this film is far from perfect.. what's wrong with that?

I don't have a negative obsession with this film; some people have a positive obsession, but that is their business.. I'm just curious as to how such an ordinary film can have such a huge impact. The cult of Titanic is strange, just as(if you were in the Uk at the time)the reaction to the tragic death of the Princess of Wales was very very strange...

I don't see people why with an alternative viewpoint should keep quiet. I saw "A Night to Remember" and I was genuinely moved... I saw "Titanic" and I wasn't.. I was just wondering if any of you felt the same. I'm not interested in winding people up.

All the best(and delete this thread if its that annoying)

-- Matthew (u05mdp@abdn.ac.uk), April 21, 1999.


I completely agree with you that an alternative view point should be shared! Bravo, and do keep sharing your thoughts. Though I may not agree with everything you said, (I enjoy a film for its entertainment purposes; it entertained me, I loved it, that's why I go to the theaters) I still think it's good to hear different opinions. You have a strong head on your shoulders! It's great to be able to read an opposing idea without getting nasty - thanks for keeping it respectable. Just a thought...

-- Kelly (kelly_rose1@hotmail.com), April 21, 1999.


When did you see the movie? You say it was 18 months after the release, but it hasn't yet been 18 months since the release in December 1997. Was this just recently?

You have come here criticizing the movie Titanic. Fine, you have stated your opinion. Like I have told those before you, I will tell you I love the movie. That is all I am going to say because I am tired of explaining to people who happen to hit on this site and criticize everyone here who loved it why the movie was so powerful and why it holds a special place in my heart. I don't have to explain myself to you, but if you wish to read the conversations with George, you can look under the link of relatives of survivors.

-- Misty (HiRver@concentric.net), April 21, 1999.


I find ludicrous the contention that one cannot understand the emotional pain Titanic survivors felt, without having been a survivor yourself. If this were the case, one could not be moved by any movie, book, or other art form simply by virtue of not being one of the characters.

It's fine for you to believe Cameron's "treatement of the human element (like all his films) is spectacularly awful", but realize first that this comment is derogatory (something you claim not to be) and second that you are in a minority of people to feel this way; many people, myself included, loved his other movies as well, especially Aliens, which he helped write, fyi, and which also was a blockbuster, though this apparently means little to you. I don't know if the propellor incident actually ocurred, and neither do you I suspect. Wouldn't be surprised if it did. It wasn't unbelievable.

You further demonstrate how different your taste is from mainstream--which there's nothing wrong with, as long as you realize it--when deriding the soundtrack, which you may know is the best selling of all time and whose theme song got an Oscar. As for your claim that the acting stunk, what say you to the award nominations and in one case a win for Stuart, di Caprio, Winslet, and ensemble cast? If you took some time to read around the site (which is quite navigable btw), you'll see there is universal admiration for the portrayal of Mr. Andrews and Molly Brown as well.

Your attempt at an objective critique was a good one. Be careful not to use terms like "spectacularly awful" though.

I don't wish to wind you up either. Keep up the good work. You'll get there!

All the best.

-- Bob (bob@bob.bob), April 21, 1999.

>>> I find ludicrous the contention that one cannot understand the emotional pain Titanic survivors felt without having been a survivor yourself. If this were the case, one could not be moved by any movie, book, or other art form simply by virtue of not being one of the characters. <<<

I think the assumption that one can understand the emotional pain in a work of art needs to be questioned from time to time. You can partially understand, but art isn't a substitute for reality. I'm in the final year of a arts-based degree course; the one thing I have learnt after these mis-spent years is that the "power of art" is a potential fallacy.

There is a painting by by the a recent "official" British war artist in my local art gallery. It is called "Serb and Moslem" and depicts a Bosnian Moslem being raped and killed by a Serb soldier. The only colours used are green, brown, black, and red. It is a horrific picture, and one that I feel awfully guilty looking at. I can make some attempt to understand the pain in the picture, but I can only draw on my own experiences of pain. These experiences are trivial compared to the real pain currently being experienced in the region. The coverage of the massacre in Colorado has made me weep, but I can't comprehend the pain of those college students and their parents.

I know Titanic hold a special place in many people's hearts, and it does draw upon my experience on grief, but I am still convinced that there is a huge gulf between the experience of the audience and those who were actually involved. I think Cameron is a profoundly mechanistic director; this is what makes Aliens, the Abyss etc such good films. The Abyss is ruined by that ending though, which is a pity. Titanic is too mechanistic in my opinion.

Comparisons have been made on this site between Titanic and Schindler's list. I've only seen Spielberg's film once, and I would feel guilty seeing it again. This film ought to have a special commercial status; somehow merchandising this film into soundtracks and videos turns it into a giant snuff movie. Maybe I am not mainstream enough, but I do find it incredibly strange when one of my friends goes and rents Schindler's list on video.

I have my favourite films too; I adored "The English Patient" for example. But I was in a relationship when I saw the film, and somehow the overwhelming selfishness of the main couple escaped me completely. When someone suggested to me that this film wasn't perfect I was offended, but now I see their point. It is a film about selfish love. The only reservation I have about this site is its overwhelming sycophancy about the film; a little bit of scepticism is healthy. Titanic has its merits, but it _is_ flawed(just as most of my own favourite films/things are flawed).

I was disappointed(and a little angry) when I saw this film(sorry for getting my dates wrong btw). I think it would be possible to make a Titanic film that had the same horror of Schlinder's list, but Cameron chose not to do this. I think that the definitive film of this tragedy has yet to be made, but unfortunately it never will be.

Is this a bit more constructive Bob?

-- Matthew (u05mdp@abdn.ac.uk), April 22, 1999.

Old whine in an old bottle. Yawn.

-- Dalton (DFDalton@msn.com), April 22, 1999.

Dalton, please check that bottle, not sure you have the right label. Am trying another label now.

-- Melanie (sheba@xroadstx.com), April 22, 1999.

Yes, Matthew, thanks.

-- BobG (bob@bob.bob), April 23, 1999.


"Letting Titanic in" doesn't mean believing you can feel the exact emotional and physical pain they went through--no one can do that who was not there. We can empathize with them, attempt to understand a fraction of what they went through by relating it to what we ourselves have gone through. But we can never truly know exactly how they felt.

"Letting Titanic in", for me, means something different. For so many years, I have researched the story of the Titanic. I've looked at passenger lists where the people were a number and a name on a page, I've read accounts on why the ship sank and what could have been done to prevent it or to at least save more people, I've watched documentaries and seen photos of artifacts recovered from the ship. I've done all of these with the clinical detachment of a researcher.

As I sat in a darkened theater, watching TITANIC for the first time, listening to the haunting music of the soundtrack (which I happen to enjoy very much =)), seeing the film of the real shipwreck, the camera focused on a china doll's face lying in the sand inside Titanic (do y'all remember that?). Seeing that doll's face quite literally shocked me--it's such a poignant reminder of the humanity of the story. And at that moment, the realization hit me: they were people. They weren't just numbers and names on a page; their lives weren't just a collection of artifacts buried undersea with a sunken ship; the stories of their lives weren't just words written on a page. They were people, just like me, with hopes and dreams and fears and plans and love and laughter and lives. I lost that clinical detachment I'd had all those years--that's how I let the story of Titanic in.

And yes, there were faults with the movie--there are faults in everything in life. But TITANIC will always be one of my favorites because of what it did for me--it put a human face on all of those names on a page.

-- Nonnie (x96smock@wmich.edu), April 23, 1999.

Good-bye, Courtney, Gilded, Misty, Melanie, and all my other cyberwives. Nonnie, will you marry me?

-- BobG (bob@bob.bob), April 23, 1999.

This is a little off the subjet, but along the same lines. On tuesday, I was working on a project for a class and I was researching on line. The TV was going in the background and I heard the words gunmen, Colorado, and school. I thought to myself "Oh, it is just another school shooting" It was then that I realized how desensitized I had become. It wasn't until I started watching the stories of the people involved, those who did and didn't survive, that it started taking an emotional toll on me, because even though I have never been involved in a school shooting, I think of my sister, who is a high school student, and I realize how that could have been her. My husband was stationed aboard the USS Pelileu when Titanic came out. I had a personal connection (however small it may have been) to ships and sailing, adn all my fears for him were sparked and brought forth when I was able to see, visually see, what had happened to these people. No, I don't know exactly how they felt, or what they went through that cold night. Being able to see a movie that went to great lengths to retell the story helped me understand better how they must have felt. Humans are visual creatures. We need the special effects so that we can "place" ourselves in the story. This is what James Cameron could do that all the others couldn't. He created a story that was entertaining enough to keep us from worrying about the bills that are past due, the exam on Monday, the spouse who is away and all the other distractions we take for granted, and he placed that story in the middle of this tragic event, thereby allowing us a peak into history. Hopefully, we will never know the pain suffered by those people and their families, but as we saw earlier this week, tragedies come in all shapes and sizes and chances are, we will all have to face one at some point in our lives. Lets just hope there are people who can be sympathetic, even though they know what it is like.

Sorry for rambling.

-- Misty (HiRver@concentric.net), April 23, 1999.

Hello Matthew:

You said:

"Comparisons have been made on this site between Titanic and Schindler's list. I've only seen Spielberg's film once, and I would feel guilty seeing it again. This film ought to have a special commercial status; somehow merchandising this film into soundtracks and videos turns it into a giant snuff movie. Maybe I am not mainstream enough, but I do find it incredibly strange when one of my friends goes and rents Schindler's list on video."

Why? This is history. It happened and yes, it's intense but to ignore it is to invite a repetition and no one needs that. There are those that will say that the events in Colorado should not gain the media attention because that is probably what the killers wanted and we are just giving them that. The reason we do this is for awareness. We say this couldn't happen in my town. We say the Holocaust could never happen again. Well, it can happen in any town and the Holocaust is reborn in Kosovo. Schindler's List was a disturbing masterpiece but for those who saw it, it was an experience and an awakening to a horrible period in history that was all man-made or initiated.

Just some thoughts.....


My prayers and hopes for recovery go to the people of Littleton, Colorado. I cannot begin to imagine their grief.

-- Peter Nivling (pcnivling@capecod.net), April 24, 1999.

Of course I'll marry you, BobG!!

--Nonnie =)

-- Nonnie (x96smock@wmich.edu), April 24, 1999.

Hi Matthew!

Another thing to remember about SCHINDLER'S LIST and TITANIC--each film depicts a different kind of tragedy. SL shows us the story of the Holocaust, in which man DIRECTLY attempted to destroy the Jews. One of the reasons SL is so disturbing (sorry, that's not exactly the right word but I can't think of the one I want) to so many people is because its so brutally honest about what happened. We hate to think that people could and did willingly committ genocide (of course, its happening all over again today in Kosovo--although I still find it hard to comprehend how people can hate so much as to try and destroy an entire race). It is from this that SL gets the "horror" you spoke about. So, yes, SL wasn't the kind of film people went out to buy soundtracks and posters of. However, the tragedy of the Titanic wasn't caused deliberately by men. Yes, it was through the negligence and over-confidence of men--but there was not a man such as Hitler demanding that the Titanic sink to kill 1500 people (please don't misunderstand me--I'm not implying that the death of those 1500 should be trivialized in any way because of this). So the tragedy of Titanic is not as difficult for us to deal with. And TITANIC had the element of fiction in it (Rose & Jack), which lends itself to merchandising.

-- Nonnie (x96smock@wmich.edu), April 26, 1999.

Please forgive me if I don't have the quote quite right but you will get the idea:
"Those who don't remember history are doomed to repeat it."
..Dr. Werner Von Braun.

This applies, in so many ways, to all that happens around us and to us!


{added blockquote tags}

-- Peter Nivling (pcnivling@capecod.net), April 28, 1999.

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