#stillshot is a feature in which someone selects a frame from a film, episode or campaign and discusses its content. The idea being to illustrate how the art of film composition, aesthetica and acting expression can convey the messages of entire movements and ephemeralities in a split-second. Also, ’cause there’s some pretty cool film shots out there.
Titanic – 1997
Starring: Leonardo Dicaprio, Kate Winslet
Titanic was the first film I ever went to see in the cinema. I was six. (PG-13 rating? Psh, we were in Uganda, that means nothing.). I remember my sister covering my eyes through all the “raunchy” moments. Being the mischievous children we are, my siblings and I eventually found a way to watch Titanic without any parental guidance.
To be honest, I was fairly let down when I did watch all the bits deemed too risqué for my innocent eyes. What the hell was so explicit about a hand on a steamed glass, I thought? I do that all the time; in the car when it’s raining and the windows have fogged up! I make shapes and everything! It took a few more viewings and a couple more years for me to understand that, no, it was most definitely not the same thing. I still jump when someone catches me off-guard whilst I’m watching Titanic for the umpteenth time – leftover habits from childhood (seriously, parents always walk in on the worst part, determined to ensure maximum awkwardness, I think). But I digress.
The shot I’ve chosen in Titanic is probably too obvious a choice for some, but – with this film, that was almost inevitable.
Rose’s necklace is, essentially, nothing more than a plot device: James Cameron needed a reason as to why 84 years after the Titanic sank, these people would be at all interested in hearing Rose’s story. The “heart of the ocean” is that reason. But this is the brilliance of Cameron; the blue diamond is elevated far beyond a cinematic device. In some ways, it is a third character in Jack and Rose’s love story.
When Rose first wears the necklace, it is no more than a beautiful symbol of her confinement, a noose around her neck. When (almost) 101-year-old Rose drops it in the ocean it represents so much more. When Rose looks at that necklace, she sees the life she ought to have had, the life Jack saved her from… “in every way that a person can be saved”; and then she remembers him drawing her, and what came next (That-Which-A-Six-Year-Old-Mustn’t-See); she recalls her realisation that she would rather die with him – if he jumps, she jumps.
The heart of the ocean becomes Rose’s heart, “a deep ocean of secrets”, and she returns it to the place it’s been residing for for the last eight decades; to Jack. The sinking necklace mirrors Rose’s last shot of Jack as he sinks to the bottom of the ocean. It segues into the final montage and – whether you believe it is merely a dream, or that Rose, in death, is finally reunited with Jack, it’s one of cinema’s most heart-wrenching, beautiful endings ever made.
In that one moment, looking at that necklace, the entire film flashes before my eyes. Well, half the time anyway. The other half, I’m reminded of the time I was on a euro trip with my family, and my brother told everyone he’d found me at the back of the ship (from Denmark to Norway) leaning over the railing and pretending to throw something into the water. He added Rose’s gasp as she drops the necklace, and everything. And then, on the return trip, he bought me a necklace that bore a passing resemblance to Rose’s and badgered me until I agreed to reenact the scene. He actually had me throw the necklace into the water. So, half the time my #stillshot reminds me of a love so beautiful and tragic and eternal, and the rest of the time it reminds me that my brother’s a nutcase. Memories.
The point is: Titanic is to me what the necklace is to Rose. I watch it and so many memories come flooding back to me: it was my first ever poster (that and a classy Spice Girls number); my first ever crush (and one that is still on-going. I shall not stop crushing on Leo until you give him a damn Oscar); my first favourite song and go-to karaoke tune (My Heart Will Go On) – in fact, James Horner’s unbelievable score is the sole reason I wanted to play the flute. Need I talk about the “You jump, I jump, remember?” scene? The score of this film is unparalleled.
The film is a cultural touchstone, a trigger for my memories. And I hope that 84 years down the line, I can watch Titanic and remember, as clearly as Rose does, all the memories and feelings it brings to mind today.
Sonia Muhwezi is the Deputy Editor of FILM, THEATRE & TELEVISION at PTL. She recently graduated from Brighton University, where she studied English Language and Literature. She hopes to go into Publishing. In other Sonia related information, it’s worth mentioning that she can turn any conversation into a game of Six Degrees to Harry Potter and is a Beyoncé stan.
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