A Titanic plot twist

Today I departed my beloved Paris, betraying her for my one true love — New York City. To fill the time during the long journey home, I watched in-flight movies.

Appropriately enough, one of these films was The Titanic, which I had not watched since its original theatrical release. For those of you who have just arrived from another planet, this was the epic James Cameron movie, about the eponymous maritime disaster, that broke all box office records in 1997. It also happened to be about a voyage from Europe to NYC, which made it perfect viewing for the trip across the Atlantic.

The movie was actually quite a bit better than I remembered. This time around, knowing everything that was about to happen, I could really appreciate its extremely sturdy dramatic structure.

One short scene in particular — when the two young lovers run in slow motion through the fires of the boiler room in the bowels of the ship — jumped out at me in a way it hadn’t the first time around. At that moment Cameron is using purely cinematic language to raise the story of Rose and Jack to the level of myth, as though Dante had written sections of the Inferno as a RomCom.

But the thing that really struck me, just as it did the first time around, was how the two young lovers end up precipitating the tragedy. So in a sense, it was actually their fault that all those people died.

In particular, the ship’s look-out at first misses the approaching iceberg because he is having too much fun watching young Rose and Jack cavorting on the deck. Therefore he delays reporting the impending collision by crucial seconds, and the ship just misses turning away in time. The rest is history.

Do you think Cameron was deliberately making the two adorable young lovers the cause of the Titanic disaster? Or is that giving him too much credit for conceptual hijinks?

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