Cameron is still unsinkable, or why TITANIC is still breathtaking after 25 years?
What makes us still want to watch Titanic? Why, despite dozens of sessions on the account, I decided to take my wife to a Valentine’s Day screening with Rose and Jacek? And above all, how does a 25-year-old film still look like one of cinema’s greatest achievements? I will try to answer these and not only these questions in this spur of the moment text, or rather – a collection of thoughts.
Big screen, new shape
Very often it happens that even a well-known film work takes on a completely new shape on the big screen. In my case, this was the case with Blade Runner – even though I watched Ridley Scott’s film many times, starting from the video cassette and ending with streaming in 4K, no words can describe the emotions that the screening of Blade Runner during the American Film Festival in Wrocław’s evoked in me. The amazing atmosphere of Scott’s masterpiece absorbed me completely at that time, and the synthesizer samples played on the cinema sound system resounded in my ears for a long time. I felt then that I was experiencing some of the most primitive, elementary, almost childlike pleasures – I was not so much watching the film as feeling it. Knowing the plot and the dialogue layer perfectly, I didn’t have to focus on the course of events – I could, like a random passer-by, walk around the world brought to the screen by Ridley Scott and get to know it anew.
Exactly the same scale of experience I experienced on Valentine’s Day, going with my beloved to the screening of James Cameron’s most majestic work. Titanic returned to theaters several times, including on the centenary of the ship’s voyage of the title; this time its return to the screens is connected with the 25th anniversary of the premiere of the film. In 1997, I was less than eleven years old and I didn’t think about three-hour screenings. If I remember correctly, I first watched Titanic on videotape, and then – many times – on TV and streaming. I was very impressed at the time, and of course deeply affected by the tragic love between Rose DeWitt Bukater and Jack Dawson. But the screening in IMAX hall, was the first Titanic cinema experience for me, and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t one of the most exciting screenings of my life!
Cinema larger than life
Titanic AD 2023 is no different from Titanic AD 1998 in a structural sense – no additional scenes appeared here, nothing was cut or shortened. It’s still the same film, just remastered and filtered through 3D technology – I admit I wasn’t a fan of the idea, but since I really wanted to see Cameron’s film in IMAX, and there was only a 3D option, I didn’t really have a choice. But Titanic in 3D turned out to be a safe choice – the “bumps” were added in a thoughtful and discreet way, so you don’t get the impression of being constantly attacked by completely unnecessary 3D objects. If anything, the partial three-dimensionality of the image rather adds depth to the experience, allows you to feel the feeling of absolute immersion even more, and this is a big plus.
There is a term in English that I like very much, because it reflects the essence of the greatness of certain things, their “incomprehensibility” by human reason. This term is, of course, larger than life. And it is this term that best describes the Titanic’s weight category – and I’m not talking about the ship itself, which, of course, was gargantuan in size. Calling Cameron’s film simply a blockbuster would be a cardinal understatement – we have blockbusters today, and we had them then too, but we only have a few SUCH films. It is cinema larger than life, because it is not only full of visual delights, not only breathtaking with dynamics and technique (how these dances to the rhythm of Irish music are edited!), but also gives us heroes for whom we would jump into the fire ourselves (and such whom we would gladly push into this fire). It is like a daringly written book with fast-paced action, characteristic characters and a spectacular finale. It’s all here – and still amazing.
The end of the world - their world
The chemistry between 22-year-old Kate Winslet and 23-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio is rarely seen on screen. I don’t know how much is due to the good lead by James Cameron, and how much is the innate talent and intuition of these two actors, but while watching Jack and Rose’s budding love, you forget about the existence of any other love movies. There is nothing else but them – crazy dances on board for the 3rd class, spitting over the side of the ship, a “steamy” scene in the car or making beautiful, casual plans about horseback riding on a beach in Mexico. Today, mature, Oscar-winning and highly valued actors, back then they were able to flawlessly convey on the screen the passionate fascination of two people who, although from different worlds and after only a few days of acquaintance, understand each other better than Ross and Rachel or Pam and Jim. And they want to experience the end of the world together – or at least their world and their history.
The IMAX version of Titanic allows you to experience the immensity of the titular ship even more, with its gigantic propellers and boilers, labyrinths of corridors and lavish first-class staterooms. It also allows you to relive the catastrophe itself – the sound of the ship’s hull falling apart or the ropes supporting the chimneys breaking are terrifying like a good horror movie, just like the screams of passengers, inevitably heading towards destruction. Just as Titanic can ignite hearts with Jack and Rose’s deep affection, it also prompts even deeper than before reflection on the fate of those who believed in the Titanic’s unsinkability. The screening of James Cameron’s film in the refreshed version for the 25th anniversary is above all a way to finally experience in the cinema: the love of the main characters, the uniqueness of their journeys, the tragedies of the passengers, and finally the beautiful closure of the life story of Rose, who, after giving the precious stone to the ocean, goes to Jacek .
He is standing on those beautiful stairs again and he is ready to do anything to “make every day count”.