Within the context of film industry, the film Titanic by James Cameron belongs to epic romance/ disaster genre. The film, released in 1997, was a global box office hit because the director provided equal importance to history, fiction and romance. To be specific, one can see that the film’s plot is based upon the history of RMS Titanic. On the other side, the main characters including the protagonist and the heroine (Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater/Dawson) are fictional characters.
Besides, the element of romance between the main characters (Jack and Rose) is the film’s main attraction. Thesis statement: The critical analysis of the film Titanic proves that the innovative mode of storytelling (flash back and other techniques), Acting, Cinematography, Editing, Sound, Style and Directing (equal importance to fictional and historical characters), Societal Impact, and Genre (epic romance/disaster) are the most important factors behind the film’s success as a historical/fictional masterpiece (special references specific shots, scenes, characters, stylistic devices and/or themes).
The storytelling technique made use by Cameron in the film Titanic is special because history and fiction is inculcated within the plot. For example, Cameron made use of the history of RMS Titanic as the main plot of the film. But he was aware of the fact that mere history of a cruise ship will not satisfy the global viewers. So, he decided to inculcate fiction and romance to the main plot. Parisi (1998), states that “Cameron’s gift was to create a unique movie going experience, one audiences couldn’t get from any other film” (202). One can easily identify that inculcation of fiction and romance is helpful for the director to be free from portraying a film from historical perspective.
At the same time, the historical importance of the plot forces the viewers to feel that the events are real, not fictional. Within this context, the director made use of flashback technique to unearth the romantic story of the lovers in the film. To be specific, the plot moves from present condition (say, 1996) to past (say, 1912) and to present (1996). In the opening scene, the director portrays the effort of Brock Lovett (say, a treasure hunter) to unearth the secret behind a necklace sunk with RMS Titanic in 1912. Gradually, the director portrays the love affair between Rose and Jack. In the end, Rose drops the necklace into the Ocean and returns. The film ends with a fictional reunion between the lovers.
The film’s casting is related to historical and fictional characters. For instance, some of real travelers in the RMS Titanic are portrayed in the film. This is helpful for the viewers to identify the historical element of the film. On the other side, the protagonist and the heroine are fictional characters. For instance, Jack and Rose, (the protagonist and his lady love) are fictional characters who inculcated the element of romance in the film. One can see that the director’s decision to caste Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson (say, the protagonist) is one of the elements behind the commercial success of the film. Besides, DiCaprio’s youthful exuberance suits his character in the film. On the other side, Kate Winslet’s character as Rose DeWitt Bukater is apt because she was able act according to the high class status of the character.
At the same time, the love affair between the protagonist and the heroine is portrayed in a usual manner because the casting was according to the situation in the film (say, tragic love affair between lower class and upper class characters). Caledon Nathan (acted by Billy Zane) is another character (say, the antagonist). His character leads to dramatic sequences in the film but does not prove to be over acting. Brock Lovett (acted by Bill Paxton), another character, is the back bone of the film because he is the narrator of the whole story of the film. In short, these are the most important characters in the film which helps the viewers to have a panoramic view of the tragedy behind the ship and the inherent love story.
The term cinematography is interconnected with the concept of still photography, but is an integral part of motion pictures. Within this context, Russell Carpenter’s role as the cinematographer of the film Titanic is important. For instance, his attitude towards cinematography, especially his tireless effort to attain perfection contributed to the success of the film. In the film, Carpenter’s co-operation with art department and visual effects department deeply influenced his role in the film as a cinematographer. During the production of the film, Cameron’s initial idea did not clash with Carpenter’s personal idea on cinematography. To be specific, working with Cameron was helpful for Carpenter as a cinematographer because both of them were with similar taste. In addition, Cameron’s knowledge in photography and set construction was helpful for the cinematographer. So Carpenter’s craftsmanship as a cinematographer is the most important factor behind the film’s cinematic beauty and quality.
Editing plays an important role because it decides which scene is to be omitted or used. Sometimes, the director decides to change the climax of the film. Within this context, editing is helpful s to overcome most of the problems. In the film Titanic, the director decided to alter the climax. For instance, in the story, Rose was not alone in the deck (say, when she threw the Heart of the Ocean into the ocean). But the director considered that presence of other people in the climax scene may hinder the communication between Rose and the viewers. So he decided to edit the climax scene in the film. One can see that test screening and test audience plays an important role in editing.
To be specific, during the process of editing, directors value the opinion of test audiences. Within this context, some of the scenes in the film Titanic were edited and cut short. For instance, when the test audience disliked some unrealistic fight scenes in the film, the director decided to edit the same. Some of the fight scenes, in which Lovejoy and Jack fight each other for silly reasons, were omitted by the director. From a different angle of view, close-up shots of the lovers (in the deck) provide richness and romantic touch to the scenes. On the other side, long-shots provide importance to the sinking of the ship.
In the initial stages of the production of the film Titanic, Cameron was not ready to use any song. When he listened to the song “My Heart Will Go On” sung by Celine Dion, he changed his mind and decided to use the same in his film. One can see that this song is one of the elements behind the commercial success of the film as an international hit. The film’s musical element is contributed by James Roy Horner. One can see that Horner’s music is deeply influenced by Celtic music. Besides, Horner was deeply interested to inculcate electronic elements to film music. From a different angle of view, the sound effect in the film leads the viewers from peace to chaos and vice versa.
In addition, the sound effects contributed much to the commercial success and international fame of the film. One can see that sound designing is an integral part of the sound effects in a film. Within the context of sound designing of the film Titanic, Chris Boyes’s contribution is noteworthy because he was keenly interested to inculcate natural sound to the sound track. Some of the important scenes in the film (Titanic hitting the iceberg and sinking into the Ocean) prove Boyle as a successful sound designer. Three of the Oscars grabbed by the film are for sound, original song and sound effects editing. This proves that sound effect is one of the elements behind the success of the film Titanic.
F. Style and Directing
James Cameron’s skill is not limited to the sphere of a film director. Instead, it extends to other fields like production, scriptwriting, editing etc. His unending passion towards films forced him to quit his initial job as a truck driver. One can easily identify that Cameron’s films are high budgeted and his style is perfectionism without compromise. Within this context, Titanic is a high budgeted film. Earlier, he used to work at Roger Corman Studios. This helped him to realize that low budgeted films do not help the director to be independent. From a different angle of view, his career as a miniature-model maker helped him to be a perfectionist.
Gradually, he began to co-operate with the film industry. For instance, experience as an art director in the film Battle Beyond the Stars (1980) and special effects designer in the film Escape from New York (1981) helped him to create his own style of direction. Some actual footages of the ship RMS Titanic used in the film Titanic were shot by Cameron himself and this proves his commitment towards his profession. To be specific, Cameron’s style and direction is closely related to perfectionism and commitment as a director.
G. Societal Impact
As pointed out, the director provided ample importance to history, fiction and romance. To be specific, the film is not limited to the historical portrayal of the sinking of Titanic. Instead, the plot extends to fiction and romance (say, inculcated by the director). Within the context of societal impact, the director proved that a historical event can be made use as the theme and can be portrayed as a fiction and romantic story. But Barczewski (2006) makes clear that “When the James Cameron film premiered in Southampton in early 1998, the British press predicted that it would meet with an ‘icy welcome’ because the story would be ‘a little too close to home’ ” (273).
The viewers accepted the film because the inculcation of fiction within history was an innovation within the film industry. The film’s societal impact was high because of its intelligent reconstruction of history and romance. The first hindrance in front of the director was the reconstruction of the past with accuracy. Within this context, the film proves to be successful and impressive. The director’s craftsmanship really impressed the viewers, especially in the ship wrecking and sinking scenes. The awards, including Oscars, gained by the film prove that the same was a box office hit in 1990s. From a different angle of view, the visual effect is one of the reasons behind the grand success of the film.
The film Titanic does not belong to a specific genre in film industry. For instance, the historical importance of the theme made use by the director proves that the film is interconnected with a historical event. At the same time, history is not the one and only theme in the film. For instance, disaster faced by the travelers of the ship Titanic is another theme of the film. Within this context, the film is interconnected with disaster film genre in the film industry. On the other side, the director does not limit the scope of the film within its historical importance and disaster film genre. For instance, the film can be considered as an epic romance which portrays the love affair between Jack and Rose. The film proves that disasters do not give any importance to richness and poverty. Lyden (2003), opines that “The film shows that both rich and poor may die, that no one can count on life at any point” (177).
For instance, both the upper class and the lower-class travelers are forced to face the disaster. In short, the film does not belong to any specific genre. Instead, the film is an amalgamation of a number of themes and can be evaluated as a historical anecdote, epic romance and a disaster film. Summing, the most important factor behind the film’s international success is Cameron’s perfectionism and passionate attitude towards direction. In addition, the director did not limit the film to its historical context but extended the same to romance and fantasy. From a different angle of view, the director made use of the theme to communicate with the viewers and the fictional characters can be considered as his tools. Besides, ample importance is given to historical and fictional characters. In short, the amalgamation of history, fantasy and romance constituted much to the film’s importance as a historical/fictional masterpiece.
Barczewski, S. (2006). Titanic: a night remembered. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group. Lyden, J. (2003). Film as religion: myths, morals, and rituals. New York, USA: NYU Press. Parisi, P. (1998). Titanic and the making of James Cameron: the inside story of the three-year adventure that rewrote motion picture history. New York, NY: Newmarket Press.