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Film Analysis Titanic

Free essay example:

Peter caddick

Module Title: Cinema Films In Context

Critical Analysis: AM75023-1

[Student No. 05433971]

[Peter Caddick]


Tutor John Manuel


Titanic, based on a true story, is a love story of two fictional characters Jack and Rose. It is presented as a narrated flashback from an aged survivor. The film starts by focusing on a drawing that has been resurrected by an excavation crew. The drawing is of a young girl wearing nothing but a piece of very valuable jewelry. The woman in the drawing is the survivor that narrates the journey of Titanic on the night it went down. James Cameron makes an "appearance" in the film; his hand is shown as if it were Leonardo DiCaprio's hand when shown close-up, and the drawing was actually drawn by Cameron himself.

James Cameron also uses great coincidence in this film, contrasting the past and the present by use of flashback storytelling, the socioeconomic differences by identifying individuals in the upper and lower decks, the stifling constraints of Victorian propriety and the more liberal values of the Twentieth century, and the triumph of the human spirit and the base instincts of self-preservation that emerge in the face of adversity.

James Cameron has always put the relationships of his characters in the foreground, such as the Ripley-Newt relationship in "Aliens", or the Bud-Lindsey reconciliation in "The Abyss". "The eventual irony of the story is that a young man's auspicious hand of poker brings him in contact with a young woman who feels that she has nothing to live for, while on a doomed voyage".

In the 1997 the blockbuster movie Titanic' directed by James Cameron the story is told of the R.M.S Titanic’s ill-fated maiden voyage on which over 1500 men, women and children tragically lost their lives in the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The director's presentations of the true facts from the Titanic disaster are impeccable. This was achieved by building a 2/3rds size model of the Titanic (viewed from the side) on location in Mexico.

The scenes towards the latter stages of the film portraying the ships dramatic plunge into the icy waters of the Atlantic Ocean have gone down in cinematic history as a both visually gripping and tragically depicted end to the ships short career.

Subtle touches James Cameron added here and there helped to rivet the viewer to their seats, (Although poor quality rivets and brittle iron make up of the hull's construction led to its downfall) the raw emotions emanating from each and every scene captured the audience's imagination, and drew them so close to the action that they felt as if they were actually a part of it.

But James Cameron did not just want to settle for an exhilarating action movie. He risked the entire films success by making the central theme to the movie a love story. This love story took place between two young passengers onboard- Jack Dawson, who won his ticket to the Titanic in a lucky hand of poker, and Rose de Witt Bukater, the unhappy fiancée of a wealthy American steel mill owner. This piece of fiction was critical to the films success, as everyone already knows the main storyline and ending before the film actually begins. To rely on this as the basis of the screenplay could have led to the film sinking like the Titanic itself.

But of course, like all other cinematic adaptations, the true story of the Titanic was altered and visually enhanced to make the film more appealing to a wider audience. These touches from James Cameron would turn the film from a potential box office flop into an omissible epic. Many previous grand productions had spent a fortune in making the film, only for it to fail miserably at the box office. This is why James Cameron knew he had to come up with something different.

The main fictional aspect of the film was the love story between Jack and Rose, two people who never actually traveled on the Titanic, or even existed. James Cameron envisaged the entire concept of this love story during pre-production, and uses the idea to manipulate the audience throughout the entire film. Character development in the film was vital, as this led the audience to care for what actually happened to these people. The death of 1500 people was tragic but without key characters the audience feels no strong connection to what happens in the film.

To make this connection even more effective, he uses a flashback and framing technique in the telling of the love story. He begins the story in the present day for the starting proportion of the film. He then uses a flashback sequence to 1912 for the majority of the rest, and then cuts back to the present day for the concluding part of the film. He also visits the present day a few times briefly during the main chunk of the movie set in 1912, to make important links between the two different aged Roses'.

The first 25 minutes of the film are shot entirely in the present day. The old Rose' is shown as a feeble old woman who is being flown out to help a deep-sea recovery team in the finding of a priceless diamond necklace.  A drawing recovered from the ship of Rose by her lover Jack is shown to the old Rose. The emotions shown by the actress playing her on the sight of this picture conveys highly effectively to the audience. It makes you feel a certain sorrow for her, and attaches you to her, and her story for the rest of the film.

This brings the connection with the characters closer to the viewer, as there is a direct link from the tragedy to the present day, and makes the viewer understand that this story is not only very real but still relevant to some people still alive today. This link draws the audience into the world of Jack and Rose. This was the desired effect of James Cameron, as it makes the film seem much more realistic, and appeals to the audience much more because of this.

After the opening scenes in the present, the director then cuts to the flashback sequence, in which the story of Jack, Rose and the maiden voyage of the unsinkable' ocean liner Titanic begins.

James Cameron decided that this sequence would be narrated by the old Rose.' This again adds more effect to her story as it adds yet more credence to the entire flashback sequence.

James Cameron helped to add even more credibility and reality to the story of the titanic by accurately portraying the furnishing and deco of the genuine article.        

Although James Cameron may seem to have over exaggerated the gulf in living conditions between steerage and first class travelers, this is a true representation of the situation at the time. The contrast in scenes between the corporate executives sharing brandy and cigars with each other and the rowdy Irish shindig taking place below deck is an extremely effective tool to represent the dramatic difference in lifestyles and again add more credibility of the story.        

Towards the end of the film in the scenes, which the Titanic is sinking, James Cameron's true feelings about the large difference between how the two different types of people were handled become apparent. We do not know whether passengers in steerage were locked out from the deck on which the lifeboats were being launched from- but Cameron put this in nevertheless. It shows his disgust at the captain and his officers for letting so many innocent people die because they couldn't afford a better bed. The decision to include these scenes help to add even more drama to the story and stir up yet more emotions in the audience.        

Furthermore, the contrasting characters of Jack and Rose fiancé Cal are used as representatives for the two different classes. It is implying that Rose must choose between a fun, yet poor lifestyle or a rich but unsatisfying life, much like the two characters are portrayed. These characteristics are those of the lifestyles which are available to her from that person- the outright smarminess of Cal purposefully put in by James Cameron really draws you into the story of Jack and Rose's love affair and leaves you yearning for them to end up together. His pompous, arrogant personality conjures up a certain feeling of dislike from the audience. These clever tactics draw the audience closer to the story and merits a personal connection with the outcome of Jack and Rose's relationship- hooking you to the film and its impending climax. The technique Cameron used to draw the audience into the world of Jack and Rose really gave the film an edge, something the audience had never seen before and was a major factor of the films huge success.

Another crucial adaptation James Cameron used to boost the films appeal is The Heart of the Ocean- a priceless diamond which Cal gives to Rose as an engagement present. The diamond in the real world is not real, but is an integral part of the film as it is the only object that can link the story between the past and the present day. Without it there would be no deep-sea recovery team looking for the diamond, meaning the use of a flashback and framing technique (as mentioned earlier) could not be used to tell the story. Without this the film would seem like every other Titanic film ever the made- concentrating on the sinking itself rather than outcome of the people onboard.

You could get an education in college or you could just run around like Jack gambling your life away; it's all indifferent when taking this movie's message into account. This indifference is a reoccurring theme from our beloved heroine, and symbolic toward the message it portrays. Jack is going to America and he doesn't need a plan for the future, he is just going to follow his so-called "romantic will" and see where it takes him. Sadly, this value is subconsciously taken in by many little girls and boys (adults as well) as a good and virtuous thing. The happy go lucky character of Jack has a major contribution to this movie as it depicts the power of true love that drives him all the way to Rose and the battle that he has to combat which he finally wins when he breathes his last and Rose proves her faithfulness by committing suicide.

In conclusion, I believe the adaptations James Cameron has administered to try and produce a completely different kind of Titanic film have worked marvelously, apparent from the films massive success at the international box office. His many additions to the true story are master strokes and will surely mark him down as one of the greatest movie directors of all time. It was an amazing amalgamation along with Jack’s character that actually gave them a boost and broke all the records of the other movies.


Pence, Mike. Explaining the Appeal of Titanic; Saturday Evening Post, May/Jun99, Vol. 271 Issue 3

Struck by Titanic fever. Time for Kids, 02/27/98, Vol. 3 Issue 18, p2, 2p, 2c; Reading Level (Lexile)

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