• Fri. Apr 12th, 2024

Review: ‘Titanic’, 25th Anniversary Screening

ByIsabella Santini

Feb 24, 2023
Titanic Grand Staircase

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s been 84 years (well, actually 11) since I last saw Titanic, when it played in cinemas for the 100th anniversary of the real Titanic’s sinking. Now it’s back in cinemas for the 25th anniversary of the film’s release, and I’m so glad I waited over a decade to see it again. Titanic belongs on the big screen.

What struck me this time was how the film is just as much about memory as it is about romance. The Titanic is larger than life, the ship of dreams, and the romance, too, is elevated, told to us not through cold, objective storytelling but from the perspective of a woman freed by it. Like her, we view the love story and the ship with rose-tinted glasses (no pun intended), and that’s what makes Titanic so emotionally impactful, because we see what it meant to Rose (Kate Winslet); we see that her experience all those years ago is what offered her self-actualisation, and in a series of photographs arranged on her bedside table, we see exactly what Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) gave her with his sacrifice.

Titanic is also about our own memory of the Titanic and its victims. It opens with old footage of the passengers waving before the ship launches, unaware of what awaits them, and the film is littered with loving and sensitive portrayals of real passengers like ‘The Unsinkable’ Molly Brown (Kathy Bates) and Thomas Andrews (Victor Garber). In one of the most moving scenes, an elderly couple hold each other as water rushes into their cabin. This was based on the real story of Ida and Isidore Straus, who died together after Ida refused to board a lifeboat without her husband. 

Nor does the film fail to condemn the careless greed which led to so many deaths. Opportunities are constantly presented to avoid the tragedy: they are aware of the iceberg warning but instead choose to go faster so that the ship can make headlines with an early arrival; they chose not to fit the ship out with enough lifeboats because it would “clutter” the deck. Perhaps most upsetting of all is the classism which sees the third-class passengers literally caged in as their deck fills with water, forced to wait for the first-class passengers to finish boarding the lifeboats. Their lives were not viewed as equal a century ago, but the film treats them with the respect and dignity they were not afforded then. Rather than exploiting a tragedy, Titanic honestly mourns it.

Everything about Titanic is perfect, from the performances to the iconic soundtrack to the stunning costumes (and I could honestly write a whole article about why this is the absolute gold standard for period drama costuming); it’s a 5-star film, but I can’t say the same for the 25th-anniversary screening for one reason: the decision to screen it solely in 3D.

3D is a decade-old gimmick at this point, and it’s transparently a way for cinemas to make more money by tacking on a £2 surcharge for glasses that you can’t watch the film without. I hate it on principle, but I especially hate it for Titanic. 3D has always been marketed as a way to make action films and such look more ‘real’. It is spectacle for spectacle’s sake, whereas Titanic has always utilised spectacle in service of the characters and the story. Screening it in 3D makes the film sensationalist in a way that it isn’t and shouldn’t be. When I see the door capsize after Rose and Jack both try to climb on it, I don’t want to be thinking about how the door looks like it’s coming out of the screen; I want to focus on the tragic realisation that only one of them can survive this.

Titanic is the absolute best of 90s blockbusters and maybe even 90s cinema in general. It gets the scale and sentimentality completely right, thanks in no small part to James Cameron’s heartfelt direction. No film devastates me emotionally like this one, and it was a wonderful experience to watch it in cinemas again with other people who were equally as affected. It’s a perfect film, and one that deserves to be screened time and time again – I just hope that the next re-release will focus more on what actually makes Titanic so great.

Image Credit: The Grand Staircase” by Cliff is licensed under CC BY 4.0.