We must note that one’s conscience doesn’t remain blind in front of the human despair here, and in front of the basic human struggle for survival. But the aspects of human suffering, accidental individual heroism or cowardice, primarily are here in order to frame this densely interlaced mosaic of human destinies into the mythic system. Without that mythic frame and its cohesion, the emotions would spread into the endless space of historic anonymity. That’s why the attention to the decaying of the ship, ravaging of the water among the shiny hallways and private cabinets of the blazed millionaires, and among the luxury salons, and the sights of the ship’s engineering decks with the iconography so alike Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”. So the common people sense rushes to put those events right at the splitting frontier between the pastoral white era, and the decades after.
So what times were before, and what after Titanic?
The XIX, and the first decade of the XX century are known as era of optimism and trust in human mind, capabilities and virtues to make the world a better place, in spite of the previous history. It was a hope of whole world, exhausted by the history fulfilled with fear, poverty, superstitions, evil and injustice. The fruits of that engaged optimism and shining mind were at the sight of the world already, in great deal in such projects like Titanic, the invulnerable giant, symbolically named with mythic name. As it seemed at the time, the humanity was ready to get a break; so, it freely let its hopes for better days – off shore.
But suddenly after the misfortunate tragedy on the Atlantic, above the planet – dark clouds of new misfortunes emerged, misfortunes that would traumatise its inhabitants so much more. Titanic was omen, and early sign of the great World Wars and Revolutions, economic depressions, the Holocaust, of the atomic bomb and Vietnam, of Gramos and Sarajevo.
In front of clarity of the facts, in the thinking mind there is no dilemma that the wrack of Titanic swallowed by cold waters of the Atlantic, has marked the end of the period of innocence of humankind with faith in the future as pledge of happiness. There is also no dilemma that the years which followed brought the winds of fear, cynicism and scepsis: soon, one after another, all the ethic values and human ideals carefully cherished during the thousands years of civilization, quietly but rigidly extinguished. The horror of destroyed European cities took turns abreast with the deliric testimony of piles and hills of dead bodies murdered in the concentration camps.
Later we are going to see how the degradation of constructing euphoria symbolised in the debacle of Titanic, is opening space for a new process: creating a myth for the failure which that shiny, unique mind left to the following generations as some kind of incomprehensive revenge (but what is, anyway, Titanic, compared the failures of human mind at such an arrogant demonstration of its power at Hiroshima, Dresden, Stalingrad?).
And did the chaos of the confused and irritated senses, after this cold-blooded collection of the facts, lost its severity? Did that chaos became a part of the mechanisms which, drop by drop are infirming the mythic core of the failure theme? James Cameron, who maybe is the most responsible for the success of this film all around the world, with no doubt, had in mind the attractiveness of the mythic frame within which he places the story of the agony and death. That mythic frame is the banal story of romance and obstructed love between two young people coming from a completely opposite social backgrounds. This story doesn’t bring to us anything original about the obstructions and obstacles which are standing against their love; but, don’t we all know that God helps the young in love so they can overcome anything in their way to the triumph of their love.
Anyway, the cliché cracks when Cameron finds himself in front of the task to merge the facts with imagination. At the moment (believing that he fulfilled the task) when he, out of the authentic wreck of Titanic, extracts imaginary proves about the greatness of this indomitable love. The crown evidence about the authenticity of this great love (which emotions, by the way, were banned by the thundering of the special effects), had to be the presence of the 100-years old lady who indeed, survived the disaster of Titanic. Her confession provokes even more confusion of the senses… Why Cameron insists on the fact that this old lady is the authentic Rose who survived the disaster thanks only to the support, self-sacrifice and bravery of her true love, Jack? Looking from one side, her memories seem to put some kind of hybrid layer upon the era of (already said above) innocence and hopes, with the era of the cynicism, arrogance and cruelty, calculated today by the Hologram program. And then again, looking from other side, those memories of faithful Rose can preserve the values of her moral strength only with the coevals of the era interlaced with optimism. That living memory of details not only of that apocalyptic night, but also of the selfishness of the self-sufficient millionaires, the aristocrats with their unshakable dignity, who expect their death with glass of whisky on their lips, the musicians who ease the agony of the demented mob with their cure-like instruments, is obviously done with a lot of thinking. But, also obviously – discrepant, especially at showing a particular world made of small pieces inhabited by nothing but with shiny costumed phantoms and illusions emerged in the night when Poseidon took his revenge. Those phantoms, when we talk about the incomprehensibly bad casting, sometimes will present the character with enviable skill and invention, but mostly they stay captives of the clichйs of academic acts (whether are they Oscar winners or not – it doesn’t matter, even a little bit). In exchange of the unfulfilled debt to the filigree-imagined characters from the past, who’s destiny’s still warn us about the misfortune acts we can always make (mothers too much concerned about their daughters, arrogant magnates, young adventurers and seekers of fortune in America!, etc.), has shown to us one fossilized face, very alike to the old, vague photos’. The unconvincing hopes and traumas of theirs couldn’t be saved – from the fetishes of mimicry – even by the powerful metaphoric machinery of breaking and sinking of the ship. Because, in the narrative proceedings of the film, the theme of sinking is – as we already mentioned – a massive mythic frame which should put the sights of destruction in firm, historic perspective.
And, we also mentioned that those sights of mutilation, dying, open wounds and faces in agony, don’t provoke the atavistic fear and horror only. They also emanate the hidden evaporations of the erotica, although death shows its face abreast with them. Jean Baudrillard doesn’t stand in defense of the perversion of enjoying in wounds and in the presence of death when he says: “The technology is deadly deconstruction of the body… its (body’s) wounds and the sexual enjoyments are just a special case with the shiny sign of sexuality with no references or frontiers”.
But James Cameron obviously stayed in dilemma in front of the dangerous implications of the metaphor of crashing of the water giant and released sexuality by the deadly breath which is emerging out of the mammothly metal wound. He carefully narrowed his attention on the strength of the moral codes upon which the Catholicism claims powers of healing the human wounds. In addition, with even more caution he scaled the weight of anger he can expect to be poured upon his blasphemy, and he decided to choose the safety of myth’s kingdom as shelter.
In the closing sequence of Titanic – the movie, when the wreck of the dead ship slowly start to revive with its – long gone – glow, Cameron seem to intend to recruit us for the idea, that can easily happen to any one us to find himself among the passengers who applaud to the happiness of the young lovers. And also to encourage us in the faith that the forces of the myth is more lasting even than the real life we’re living in. There is only one issue which is a great dilemma: does the failed and worn out idea according which the happiness emerges out of the wrecks of the dreams and hopes which creates a new heroic reality, can resurrect in the myth?
free translation, markings and adaptation by Petar Volnarovski