Friday, April 20, 2012

Titanic 3D remains a problem movie -- a Hollywood disaster film that misses the tragedy

It is difficult not to like Titanic. The love angle that James Cameron focused on to tell the tragedy of Titanic -- between Jack Dawson (Leonardo Di Caprio), the Irish youth and Rose, (Kate Winslet), the beautiful woman hanging precariously on the precipice of penury -- tugs at your heart strings and it would indeed pretentious not to be drawn into the melodramatic love story. But the story of Titanic is a monumental metaphor of all that is triumphant and fragile and brittle and even shallow about modernity, and even in Cameron's almost callow telling it is not possible to overlook the sobering and sombre morality tale. The luxury liner was an emblem of all that was dazzling and all that was deceptive about modern civilisation. As in Herman Melville's Moby Dick, Captain Ahab and his burning rage against the white whale which represented the inscrutable power of the natural world was of really no avail. The cocoon of opulence that Titanic was no match to the silent and deathly iceberg that shattered the dream that the ship that can never sink is awesome in the literal sense of the term. But Cameron in true Hollywood sense misses the iceberg of truth, and the film flounders as a mere spectacle film.

Kate Winslet is a perfect Indian woman with her exquisite physicality and emotionality. Though she almost seems to symbolise the English rose like Helena Bonham Carter or Sarah Miles before her, Winslet in her built and expressive eyes and a voice full of feeling is more like Madhubala and Vyjayanthimala. The other Hollywood actress who is very Indian in her looks and emotional exuberance is Julia Roberts. Leonardo Di Caprio retains the boyish charm which suits the character of Jack. But the story of Jack and Rose does not reflect fully the tragedy of Titanic, and it is on this question that Cameron's Titanic, with its lavish production and technical value, fails to be the great film that it could have been.

Cameron's film just fails to capture the helplessness of human beings in the face of ruthless forces of nature -- the sea, the iceberg and the cold. The floating city of lights, the engine room with its might chugging heart is much too small in terms of magnitude compared to the sea, the night, the darkness and the millions of stars that seemed to shine with utter indifference to the cries and death of thousand and more human beings which left no ripple in the sublime universe.
Perhaps Cameron knew the real meaning of Titanic and feared its very sombre implications and wanted to make it meaningful through the romance of Jack and Rose. But his attempt is a miserable failure. The shallow wit of some of the dialogues in the film do not impress. The throw away lines about "some Picasso"and "Who is Freud?" are just out of place in the story of Titanic. Of course, Cameron is no Aeschylus. He is just a blockbuster movie director and we should not demand that he produce a Greek tragedy that will ring true down thousands of years.


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