Before you proceed with the reading of my article, I would like to introduce myself. I am a freelance writer at https://writer-elite.com. I hold an MBA in Philology from the University of Texas. I specialize in writing academic papers for university students and conduct researches on a wide variety of topics. Moreover, I always broaden my outlook by reading the scientific journals and by attending conferences devoted to academic writing.
The movie under consideration is Titanic, directed by James Cameron, produced by James Cameron and Jon Landau. The movie stars are Leonardo DiCaprio playing Jack Dowson, Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater, Bernard Hill as Captain Edward James Smith, Kathy Bates as Molly Brown, and Victor Garber as Thomas Andrews (Internet Movie Database).
Literary, a French expression mise-en-scène means placing on stage. The concept includes a setting, costumes, lighting, décor, makeup, and actors’ positioning. Cinematographic mis-en-scène also includes a frame and camerawork. A craftsman, camera crew, a director of photography, and a director area team charged with creating cinematographic mis-en-scène. That is why mis-en-scène may be regarded as a “result of collaboration of many professionals (“Mise-en-Scène”). However, all things have considered that the most of responsibility in establishing mis-en-scène lays on the director’s part. Creating mis-en-scène is a process that undergoes several stages. In the pre-production stage, for example, decorations are designed, and the issues of special organization of cinematography are being solved. Therefore, a costume reconstruction, exposing a spirit of age, and reconsidering human relations as well as a lifestyle is among the primary tasks of the cinematographic art (“Mise-en-Scène”).
Mise-en-Scène, in particular, is called to provoke emotions, feelings, and thinking with a long-lasting effect. Probably, one of the brightest episodes within the movie is the moment when Jack Dowson and Rose DeWitt Bukater notice each other on a landing stage before the Royal Mail Ship Titanic. Later on, there is a ball, and the two young people are dancing. Due to the video version of the movie’s sound-track by Celine Dion My Heart Will Go on, one may easily recall and visualize the story of romance, which was taken as a basis of the movie’s fable. James Cameron, who is also known as the director of such blockbusters as Terminator and Aliens, attempts to be extremely precise in details, sharing his own vision of the early XX century’s lifestyle, manners, etiquette, and a pace of life.
In case of Titanic, the retrospection is a central artistic and cinematographic method. It means organizing the plot and arranging the events. An old lady, who is brought to the place of the Titanic shipwreck in order to assist in finding the gemstone called the Heart of the Ocean, appears to be a witness of events and the survivor of the catastrophe. As soon as she sees her portrait as a young woman, she begins to recall her own story of the voyage, romance, and tragedy she has never spoke of, but could never forget (Titanic, 1997).
Winning the third class tickets in a dockside card game, a young artist Jack Dowson and his best friend Fabrizio de Rossi board a passenger trans-Atlantic liner Titanic. Jack Dowson meets the young girl named Rose DeWitt Bukater, who is travelling in the first-class with her mother, Ruth DeWitt Bukater, and Caledon Hockley. The latter one she is going to be married to in Philadelphia (Titanic, 1997).
The tragedy happened on April 15, 1912, in the North Atlantic Waters. It proved to remain shrouded in its mystery. The ship’s log, the captain’s order book, and the PDL book helped to reconstruct the events of the shipwreck. However, they have not determined the causes of the tragic event. John P. Morgan and John J. Astor were the two entrepreneurs, two wealthy people, who supported Nikola Tesla’s researches and scientific projects. Anticipating the catastrophe, Nikola Tesla warned his patrons. Listening to the scientist’s advice, John Morgan returned his ticket for a refund, while John Morgan disregarded all Tesla’s warnings and boarded the ship.
In my considered opinion, an intent purpose of the movie is not just telling a romantic story. In this case, the idea, among the others, consists in reconsidering the history and human perception of hazards and risks of emergency. Moreover, the global catastrophe stands opposed to and is viewed through the lens of a personal drama. No person capable of feeling remains indifferent when it comes to the moment of the farewell between Jack Dowson and Rose DeWitt Bukater.
Another episode I would like to address concerns one of the narrative lines. It is, namely, the one that tells the story of searching for the gemstone among the remains of the sunken ship by a team of deep-sea explorers. At the very beginning of the movie, all those deep-water vehicles, chambers, and deep diving submarines look almost futuristic and contrast comfort, peacefulness, and the adornments of space that aged Rose DeWitt Bukater is surrounded by. This phenomenon is a marker of James Cameron’s individual style as the director. It indicates his commitment to the principles of technocratic philosophy and scientific progress. Thus, these principles contradict the humanist philosophy and the main ethical doctrines. When the world of people and the world of technology collide, the truth is found. The power of the human ratio gives in human passions, feelings, merits, and dignity. Hence, the director resolves an ethical conflict between the humane and dehumanized as well as the aesthetical one, of beauty, and artificiality.
Both, Rose’s portrait and the ship in the movie perform a symbolic function. The portrait personifies the beauty, genius, and talent. Titanic, in its turn, is a symbol of human proficiency and mastery, which personifies the material benefits and the scientific-technological progress. The small portrait has enough power to make Rose recall the happiest and most beautiful days of her youth she had spent in the company of Jack. The ship, in its turn, reminds Rose of her deepest fears, qualms, to a certain extent, moral cowardice, and the pain of loss and solitude. The moment when she feels so suppressed but unwilling to bend, she decides to commit a suicide, and it is Jack who saves her.
James Cameron by no means diminishes the power and virtue of mind, ration, and logics. What the director does is the exaltation of sensibility, emotions, passions, loyalty, dignity, and the sense of obligation as something absolute and all-consuming. Recalling one of the final episodes of the movie, I assume that an idea of sacredness of human imagination, which takes the precedence over the power of ratio and thought, is asserted. Romanticizing the state of a dream and/or a human being at the moment of his or her last bow, the director reunites the loved ones and makes them happy again.
Evaluating James Cameron’s work, Stephanie Zacharek of the Salon claims:
His canvas is so massive, you never know where to look, and when you look back over
the whole, none of it looks like much — and this is the Titanic we’re talking about, the
stuff of ballads and legends (as quoted in RogerEbert.com).
Joseph McBride, of the Boxoffice Magazine, claims that Titanic by James Cameron “is one of the most magnificent pieces of serious popular entertainment ever to emanate from Hollywood” (as quoted in RogerEbert.com). Janet Maslin of The New York Times is making a statement that:
Just as David O. Selznick had Atlanta to burn, now James Cameron has a ship to sink, but he also has much more than calamity to explore in this gloriously retrograde new epic.
Cameron’s magnificent Titanic is the first spectacle in decades that honestly invites
comparison to Gone With the Wind (as quoted in RogerEbert.com).
Owen Gleiberman, of Entertainment Weekly, has pointed that:
A lush and terrifying spectacle of romantic doom. Writer-director James Cameron has
restaged the defining catastrophe of the early 20th century on a human scale of suc
purified yearning and dread that he touches the deepest levels of popular moviemaking
(as quoted in RogerEbert.com).
Jess Cagle, of Entertainment Weekly, has stated that “for audiences overfed with scrappy independent films and Seinfeldian cynicism, Titanic quenches a deep thirst for old-fashioned spectacle and sentiment” (as quoted in RogerEbert.com).
The Titanic sea voyage had lasted for approximately 5 days in April 1912. The product of reconsidering the historical reality at the end of the XX century has given people a chance to look back at their history, technological development, the evolution of philosophy and art, and a mode of thinking. Hence, among the others, the conflict of authenticity (credibility) and fiction is being resolved in James Cameron’s Titanic. All things considered reveal that the movie has found resonance with the audience, in spite of the balance between positive and negative feedbacks, the number of admirers and critics of James Cameron as the director of the movie and his team (actors, producers, camera crew, and others). All in all, as far as the issues of a visual analysis are concerned, it is necessary to admit that cinematography is technically perfect. A smooth transition from close ups and detailed shots to long (wide) shot are being rather professional. The shot of the reconstructed passenger liner, Royal Mail Ship, are stunning. Underwater shooting are impressive as well. Assuming that I have managed to understand and decipher the author’s intention, the means for articulating and representing the idea of the movie appeal to me and seem relevant.