Another lengthy picture here in the form of James Cameron’s mighty nautical blockbuster, ‘Titanic’. For those of you unfamiliar with this work, it is a love story before a penniless American painter Jack Dawson (Leonardo di Caprio) and an upper-class engaged lady Rose DuWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) who meet aboard the Titanic, on its ill-fated maiden voyage.
The first part of the film is mainly focused on their romance. She is engaged and from a different class, but he rescues her and becomes mixed into her world. Then the inevitable happens, and the ship hits an iceberg. The second half of the film focuses on the sinking of the ship and the actions of the characters.
The film made Di Caprio and Winslet household names, and although their performances in this film are not as good as some of their more recent performances you can see the talent here. Di Caprio is charming and thoroughly likable as the poor painter, and Winslet plays the rich English girl well. There are some very strong supporting performances, notably from Kathy Bates as Molly Brown, who takes Dawson under her wing, and Frances Fisher as Rose’s domineering mother, looking to preserve the family’s name.
Although the story is fairly simple what makes it work, especially in the second half is by showing little sub-stories regarding how others are being affected by the events that are unfolding: the captain, the designer, an elderly couple, the orchestra. Cameron manages successfully to look at the big picture of the sinking ship and also the smaller individual stories at the same time without straying into over sentimentality.
It is of course for the brilliant technical achievements that ‘Titanic’ won most its awards, and it is a technical masterpiece. From the boat sinking in the middle of the Atlantic to the small details throughout the different rooms in the ship it is beautiful: the cinematography, art direction, costume, sound… were all recognised by the Academy and it’s not difficult to see why.
This film is often criticised and I think that this is to do with the amount of overexposure the film had on release. What we have here, though, is a film that is technically superior, but that still manages to deliver a well acted and touching story, and whereas it is not the best film ever made, it is a genuine joy to watch a blockbuster film that is not purely about special effects.