Saturday, April 7, 2012

'Titanic 3D': A New Emotional Experience...

I don't remember Titanic being as hopeful the first time as I found it to be when I trekked back to the theater and plunked on some heavy 3D goggles to watch its re-release. Say what you will about the necessity to re-release it, reformatted to fit the "Real 3D" technology-- many have, and many fall on both sides of the argument. Personally I never really saw a need for 3D until Titanic. James Cameron may have a reputation for being a bit of a tyrant, but let's face it: the man knows his technology. Titanic was a marvel for the ocean exploration even before we got to the ship sinking, and I believe it is the first true example of what a "Real 3D" movie should look like. No gimmicks, no pieces of debris flying at your face, just immersing you in the world-- and in this case, the ocean. The majesty of the ship and every luxury and decadence on board was never clearer, and therefore neither was the sadness at the tragedy that struck when the ship did the iceberg. But this is not a post about the technology of Titanic, so I will leave that argument up to those who more closely studied the conversion process and cost associated with it. Instead, I would like to talk about the message of the film-- one that, as I said just a minute ago, I walked out of the theater struck by just how hopeful it was.

Maybe it's because I'm older now, and I can stop staring at the impossible beauty that was Leonardo DiCaprio. Maybe it's because I had already seen it a couple of times, and I knew the beats that would come next, and the next, so I was looking at the film on a different level, for a different experience. Maybe it's just because I am at a different place in life and once again found identification in the story, just in a new way. While once upon a time I marveled at how quickly these two fell in love and the great lengths that they would go to be together, this time around, I was much more taken by the vast expanse between their resolves and strengths of mind.

Maybe Rose (Kate Winslet) really never would have jumped when she stood on the railing after that first stuffy dinner on the ship. But she was still looking for a way out of her life at any cost, and to me, that's the definition of suicidal. Meeting Jack (Leonard DiCaprio) in that moment could have been enough to give her the courage to stand up to her mother and walk away from a life she was being committed to. And it was, slowly. He helped her find her fire. But of course, history had other plans.

When Rose was faced with safety, when she was sitting in the rowboat, being lowered to the icy ocean underneath, she looked up at saw Jack resigning himself to his fate. There was no deal, promising him a spot in an identical boat. He was staying aboard, for better and for worse, and he would most likely die there. And she made the decision to die with him. It was her only true way out of her life.

Yet, Jack, a guy with tons of heart but really nothing else, fought the entire time to just stay alive. The speech he gave at dinner with Rose and her family about life being a gift was not just rhetoric to him. He dove down to retrieve dropped keys to unlock gates and pulled benches from their posts to open other gates. He pulled Rose along the deck of the ship, up stairs, over the railing once again. His sheer will to live was astounding.

It's hard to judge characters-- or even real people-- in situations so life-or-death. You could say that Rose's fire died out when she resigned herself to perish alongside Jack, or you could say it was incredibly brave to decide to take a stand and go out on as much of your own terms as you could allow. When she pointed out to Jack that they were now clinging to the spot they first met, you could say he was foolish for still trying every last ditch attempt to bide a little extra time while others were jumping just to end it quicker, or you could say that he, too, was brave, for doing everything he could to hold onto what he had.

Obviously, looking at the story this way, his death is that much more poetic and powerful. There was a brief moment, after Rose had promised Jack to never let go of those dreams and her fire, after she heard the booming but frantic Ioan Gruffudd's calls, after she realized Jack was no longer with her, that she laid back flat on the raft and seemed to just be waiting for the cold to take her, too. But in the end, she found that last little bit of fire to honor Jack and that promise. She dug deeper, or Jack, in his own way, pushed her along. And that is in what I find the hope. After being locked away by fear for so long, after going through an insanely terrible ordeal, after losing the one salvation she found, she finally took charge. She finally found her own will to really live, not just exist. The Titanic may have been the best thing to happen to Jack because it brought him to her, but it was the best thing for her because it brought her back to life.

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