I know it may be hard to believe, but it's entirely a coincidence that I'm posting about Titanic on December 18th for the second year in a row. The date holds zero significance in my memory of the movie (I first saw it on Christmas Day in 1997), but this just happens to be the day on which this edition of Theater Seens falls. Go figure. I'm not sure I have another post in me for next year, but now that this is a tradition I just might keep it going. It's not even one of my favorite movies or the best movie I've ever seen, but considering nothing approached its magnitude for 10 full years, Titanic always loomed large in my head. The crown has been passed, of course, to The Dark Knight, which is the only movie I've observed to dominate the box office and the popular culture in the same way, despite lacking catch phrases and a record number of Oscar nominations.
Anyway, I think it was a 7:00 or 8:00 PM show that Christmas night that we saw Titanic. Along with another friend, my family and I bundled through the snowy night to the (now closed) Har-Mar Theaters in Roseville. It's pretty funny to think of some of the epic movies I saw on those Har-Mar screens, including Titanic and The Lord of the Rings a few years later. There was no stadium seating at Har-Mar and the theaters were arranged like airplane cabins - 50 rows of three seats on each side with an aisle down the middle. Well maybe that's a stretch, but either way the experience was like watching a 13" TV from the opposite end of a dark tunnel. Of course I hardly knew better at the time since most of the current multiplexes didn't exist, but when I saw my last ever movie at Har-Mar before it closed (an exclusive engagement of the locally-produced Sweet Land, in December 2006), I found myself almost laughing at how theaters had evolved in the decade prior.
Considering the theater in which I saw Titanic, then, it's amazing that my first experience with the movie was so memorable, especially the scene featured below. During the last panicked scamper to the highest point of the ship, I felt a rush of emotions as I watched many of the passengers give in to their fate, praying, jumping, and holding each other, all while the first-class passengers sat in their lifeboats and watched in silent horror.
By the time the electricity on the ship failed, we in the theater were stricken silent as well, a horrible feeling rising as a deep groan emanated from the innards of the ship. The rest of the scene is sheer terror as the Titanic splits in half and thousands of passengers fall to their icy deaths. It was hard for me to watch the bodies falling and hitting railings and propellers on their way down - an image that unfortunately now brings to mind those who jumped out of the buildings on 9/11. The look that Kate Winslet shares with the man on the railing next to her is also profound - he offers no guidance, no last words of hope. How often do people know that they're about to face certain death, and what can they say at that moment?
For many people I imagine Jack's drowning (which my brother memorably alerted me to right before we left for the theater) turned their sobbing into outright wailing, but I've never been very moved by the love story in this movie. Rose always seemed like she was just slumming it to have fun on the way to America, and Jack didn't appear to be someone who could ever settle into a relationship. Would they have lived happily ever after? It's romantic to believe so, but I don't think I bought into the emotions until my eyes welled up a little bit when Rose eventually joined Jack on the stairway landing.
I know there are a wide range of thoughts about this movie, the majority of them quite negative (you can read my thoughts on the movie's influence here). Even if you didn't enjoy Titanic, did the grand scale of the production leave any impression on you, especially if you saw it in the theater?
Without further ado, here's the scene (I love the irony of watching a scene from a movie this big on a screen this small):