For this film to be a success, James Cameron, the director had to modernise it. He had to include all the aspects of a hit film, along with the attraction towards a wide audience. This he achieved by incorporating the well-known story of the “unsinkable ship” with the new and ‘hottest’ stars. In theory the older generation was intrigued to see how Cameron interpreted the story, and the younger generation wanted to see the latest actors. The director’s objective was to produce a film, based on the true story that would appeal to all age groups, particularly the younger generation.
So Cameron used Leonardo DiCaprio to play the role of ‘Jack’, a young American living life as it comes “making his own luck”. He chose Leo to play this part because he was the latest heartthrob of teenaged girls across the nations and would there fore attract a vast majority of the targeted audience, for the male population, Kate Winslet ‘the girl next door’ was cast as the young, fresh and rich ‘Rose’. The combination of the two up and coming stars was a sure hit teamed with the theme of love.
Strength and skills they had acquired during previous roles made the actors work well together to produce a convincing and moving relationship. However the story needed to keep the realism of the true event which took place in 1912 yet have enough action, excitement and romance to keep the target audience interested for the record three and a half hour film. The director achieved this by using many different techniques of lighting, sound effects and camera angles.
By using many dramatic camera angles it is possible to involve the viewer in the scene as opposed to watching the film from a cinematic perspective. You are instantly drawn in to the scenery with the technique of ‘panning’. This is a wide shot of the scene, which slowly moves on a fixed point to allow the viewer to see the full atmosphere and action occurring around that point. Using different camera angles helps to create the affect of where the actor/ actress is. For example, to establish the background behind a character, a long shot is appropriate.
This was used in such a scene as the opening view of the ship, because Cameron wanted to convey the true size of the masterpiece. However to get the most dramatic effect of action, a wide angle shot would work better because this will focus on the characters, and the mood of their surroundings. This was used when Jack is seen playing cards in the bar on the dockhands, with titanic visible through the window. Denotation and Conotation were also used to show the symbolism of the images, and what they suggest.
The way in which Cameron managed to persuade the audience that they were within the scene, added emotion and realism to the production, concentrating on a particular subject at each time as not to lose the attention of the viewers. The use of romantic, slow calming music allowed the viewer to unknowingly become emotionally involved in the scenes. This, combined with the techniques used on the camera angles and the stunning computer graphics, made the whole film come together.
Cameron kept an element of truth in the story by using Rose who was a real survivor from the sinking ship, but put the fire in to it by introducing a fictional character her lover, ‘Jack’. The shots and camera angles used presented a good example of denotation, conotation, wide angle and long shots. A long shot was used when ‘Rose’ is in immense confusion about her life and decides to try and end it by jumping off the back of the ship one evening. The camera shot used to open this scene was a wide shot of ‘Rose’ running away from the banquet at which she had been in an argument with her fianci??.
To show the full size of the ship Cameron used a panning wide angle shot. This is most effective because as the shot zooms in to where rose is situated on the half a mile long boat, you begin to grasp the vast size of the vessel in comparison with the tiny figure. As we follow Rose running from the middle of the ship, up and down stairs until she reaches the bow, and comes to an abrupt halt against railings, here a close up view of her is used to show how upset and out of breath she is which relates her to the audience because we understand her pain, emotionally and physically.
As Rose decides what to do, we see through her perspective as she looks at the railings on the bow of the ship. Slow sad Irish music plays softly in the background, adding real empathy to her character. When Rose is hanging off the back of the ship, a close shot is again used from the perspective of Rose looking up at jack’s face. This is used to show the strength and effort that Jack is putting into pulling Rose over the edge on to the safety of the decks.
A similar camera angle is used from Jack’s perspective, this time to show the fear and anguish in Rose’s face and the ferocious, churning and freezing water below her kicking legs. The traditional method of using foreground, middle ground and background to fool the viewer into believing an object is larger than it actually is, was used throughout the film along with the horizontal, wide screens and vertical shots to create atmosphere. Perhaps the most atmospheric device Cameron used was the music and sound effects, without which the film would not seem as intense, action packed or emotional.
He used a wide variety of Irish and country music typical of the era in which the film is set to portray the large number of Irish passengers travelling in third class to America, to seek a better life there. Cameron wanted to show how strong this community was by convincing the audience that no matter how poor the conditions were on the third class decks, it was still possible to have fun. He did this by showing a scene in which Rose (a first class passenger) goes below decks to a third class passenger party as guest of Jack.
She soon finds that there is no need for money to enjoy them self as the roar of the Irish jig and the lively atmosphere sweeps her into the mass of dancing bodies. The theme of the music is continued throughout the film but the tempo, style or rhythm is changed. Celine Dion had the hit single “My heart will go on” is famous for the scene in which Jack and Rose are standing on the front of the ship; Jack behind Rose holding out her arms to make her feel like she is flying. This signifying the bonding between the two lovers and their trust.
The costumes also contributed towards the meaning of the film as they reflected class division in the era in which the disaster of Titanic took place. There was a pronounced division between first class and third class passengers. Therefore the difference between the main characters was very obvious Jack was third class and Rose was first class. The costumes were accurately researched for the wealthy people of that period. For example, the first class wore colourful bright and clean clothes, which were changed each day.
They had such luxuries, as smart dresses, suits and maids to dress them, whereas the third class did not even own the soap to wash with and dressed in dirty drab torn clothes. The comparison between the two is very prominent when Rose joins the third class party below decks as she is in clean, clothing and the other passengers are in dark, melancholy colours. This would suggest Rose is better off than they are and perhaps brought up better, but this is proven not to be so when she joins the ‘lads’ in a beer and proves she is not just an ‘upper classed snob’.
James Cameron showed the differences between the classes continuously throughout the film from the opening scene of Jack and a friend gambling for their ticket on the ship compared to Rose arriving by motor car, well dressed with servants to carry every thing for her. Once on board the ship is divided in to different sections for the classes, third not allowed to enter 1st class areas. This is shown when a porter is walking a dog belonging to a first class passenger, and he takes it to the third class decks to let it go to the toilet. An Irish friend of Jack’s makes the comment that it is typical that they get treated like that.
Perhaps the worst comparison made between the classes is when the ship has hit the ice burg and is rapidly sinking. The lower decks are flooding and the third class passengers are locked down there to stop them from getting in the life boats before the first class passengers have got in. This is a sad prospect that humans could do that to one another. This is now open to debate by historians as to weather it really happened that way. Again Cameron used the key elements of a film angles, lighting and sound to make the sinking of the ship as realistic and horrific as possible.
The viewer does not gain an idea of how huge the ship is until a long shot is used as the ship is going down. As all the life boats row away and people jump in to the water u can really see the true size of “Titanic-the unsinkable ship of dreams”. Cameron managed to link the lighting to the beats and thrills of the music building a climax and sense of fear and evasion. The cool lighting used in the scene’s after the tragedy created a sad blue and cold atmosphere, which follows on to Rose, as an old lady, revisiting the memories.
This created a stark contrast to her dream that night of revisiting the ‘ship of dreams’ as a warm friendly glow is created with soft angelic lighting. The theme tune is slowed down and Rose appears, surrounded by her friend’s family and loved ones. A panning shot curves round the room in which she and Jack first met to reveal the smiling applauding faces. Soft lighting combined with the music symbolises happiness and purity suggesting that Rose, as an old lady fell asleep and died in her dreams that night, a happy contented woman, having returned “the heart of the ocean”.