Sunday, July 25, 2004

Geez, Jack, your hands are really COLD!

Michael Lopez has a funny post up about the film Titanic, which I still like a good deal despite the fact that it is, in large part, full of crap. In his post, he dissects the character of Rose, and his conclusion -- supported by some evidence -- is this:

Rose is an utterly self-absorbed bitch, and her relationship with Jack doesn't change this one bit.

Well, now. I do wish Michael would, just once, come out and say what he means!

Kidding aside, it's fun to look through his supporting commentary. I'd just like to answer a couple of his points here (because, well, I'm in a bit of a "geekery" mood this morning).

Michael's really bugged by Old Rose's dropping of the Heart of the Ocean into the sea at the end of the movie. Yeah, I think a case can really be made that she could have done a lot more good with it elsewhere. On the one hand, there's the old "Indiana Jones" ethic at work here ("That diamond is an important artefact, and it belongs in a museum!"). But then, I've watched enough Robert Ballard interviews over the years in which he castigates people who have basically scavenged just about everything from the wreck that wasn't bolted down (or that was bolted down, but then the bolts rusted away) as "grave robbers". So I dunno. I can live with it, in the movie. I think.

(I wonder if Michael ever saw a TV commercial that aired a couple of years back. I can't remember who the advertiser was, but it recreated that scene of Old Rose tossing the diamond, and then she suddenly thinks better of it and jumps into the water after it. Cut, then, to Old Rose emerging from a pawn shop rifling through a thick wad of money. It was hilarious.)

Michael also points out that at the end of the movie, the camera pans across the pictures on Rose's shelf, which are pictures of her and nobody else. I guess this would be a weird thing for her to do, but I took it as just a cinematic construct of Cameron's to show that Rose really did put Jack's philosophy of "Make every moment count" into effect after she disembarked the Carpathia in New York City.

I also don't really fault her jumping off the lifeboat, since the whole film is setting up a kind of "Better we die together than live apart" subtext, even if that's ultimately not what happens (except in the minds of Rose's family).

It's also interesting to peruse the film's shooting script and note some differences in the way the film was originally written versus how it was eventually released. Remember how Rose sees Cal on the deck of the Carpathia, the morning after the sinking, but he doesn't see her? Well, it wasn't originally written that way:


It is the afternoon of the 15th. Cal is searching the faces of the widows lining the deck, looking for Rose. The deck of Carpathia is crammed with huddled people, and even the recovered lifeboats of Titanic. On a hatch cover sits an enormous pile of lifebelts.

He keeps walking toward the stern. Seeing Cal's tuxedo, a steward approaches him.


You won't find any of your people back here, sir. It's all steerage.

Cal ignores him and goes amongst this wrecked group, looking under shawls and blankets at one bleak face after another.

Rose is sipping hot tea. Her eyes focus on him as he approaches her. He barely recognizes her. She looks like a refugee, her matted hair hanging in her eyes.


Yes, I lived. How awkward for you.


Rose... your mother and I have been looking for you--

She holds up her hand, stopping him.


Please don't. Don't talk. Just listen. We will make a deal, since that is something you understand. From this moment you do not exist for me, nor I for you. You shall not see me again. And you will not attempt to find me. In return I will keep my silence. Your actions last night need never come to light, and you will get to keep the honor you have carefully purchased.

She fixes him with a glare as cold and hard as the ice which changed their lives.


Is this in any way unclear?


(after a long beat)

What do I tell your mother?


Tell her that her daughter died with the Titanic.

She stands, turning to the rail. Dismissing him. We see Cal stricken with emotion.


You're precious to me, Rose.


Jewels are precious. Goodbye, Mr. Hockley.

We see that in his way, the only way he knows, he does truly love her.

After a moment, he turns and walks away.


That was the last time I ever saw him. He married, of course, and inherited his millions. The crash of 28 hit his interests hard, and he put a pistol in his mouth that year. His children fought over the scraps of his estate like hyenas, or so I read.

Now, it doesn't make it explicit, but I'd say that Cal knows at that moment that she has the diamond, but he chooses to let it go. This scene was probably cut (or not even filmed) because such an act of sacrifice would not have been in keeping with what we've already figured of Cal's character, to say nothing of Rose's coldness here. (I'd have more expected her to give him the diamond and say, "Now leave me alone. Tell everyone I died." But then the whole movie's framing device, of modern-day treasure hunters looking for the diamond amidst the wreckage, wouldn't work.)

And that's not all. The "dropping of the stone into the sea" scene was entirely different as originally written, as well:

307 EXT. KELDYSH STERN DECK [Keldysh is the present-day treasure-hunter ship.]

Rose walks through the shadows of the deck machinery. Her nightgown blows in the wind. Her feet are bare. Her hands are clutched at her chest, almost as if she is praying.

ON LOVETT AND LIZZY running down the stairs from the top deck, hauling ass. [Lovett is the treasure-hunter played by Bill Paxton; Lizzy is Rose's granddaughter.]

ROSE reaches the stern rail. Her gnarled fingers wrap over the rail. Her ancient foot steps up on the gunwale. She pushes herself up, leaning forward. Over her shoulder, we see the black water glinting far below.

LOVETT AND LIZZY run up behind her.


Grandma, wait!! Don't--

ROSE TURNS her head, looking at them. She turns further, and we see she has something in her hand, something she was about to drop overboard.

It is the "Heart of the Ocean".

Lovett sees his holy grail in her hand and his eyes go wide. Rose keeps it over the railing where she can drop it anytime.


Don't come any closer.


You had it the entire time?!

FLASH CUT TO: A SILENT IMAGE OF YOUNG ROSE walking away from Pier 54. The photographers' flashes go off like a battle behind her. She has her hands in her pockets. She stops, feeling something, and pulls out the necklace. She stares at it in amazement.

BACK ON KELDYSH, Rose smiles at Brock's incomprehension.


The hardest part about being so poor, was being so rich. But every time I though of selling it, I though of Cal. And somehow I always got by without his help.

She holds it out over the water. Bodine and a couple of the other guys come up behind Lovett, reacting to what is in Rose's hand.


[Bodine is that associate of Lovett's, the one who looks like Comic Book Guy.]

Holy shit.


Don't drop it Rose.


(a fierce whisper)

Rush her.


(to Bodine)

It's hers, you schmuck.

(to her)

Look, Rose, I... I don't know what to say to a woman who tries to jump off the Titanic when it's not sinking, and jumps back onto it when it is... we're not dealing with logic here, I know that... but please... think about this a second.


I have. I came all the way here so this could go back where it belongs.

The massive diamond glitters. Brock edges closer and holds out his hand...


Just let me hold it in my hand, Rose. Please. Just once.

He comes closer to her. It is reminiscent of Jack slowly moving up to her at the stern of Titanic.

Surprisingly, she calmly places the massive stone in the palm of his hand, while still holding onto the necklace. Lovett gazes at the object of his quest. An infinity of cold scalpels glint in its blue depths. It is mesmerizing. It fits in his hand just like he imagined.


My God.

His grip tightens on the diamond.

He looks up, meeting her gaze. Her eyes are suddenly infinitely wise and deep.


You look for treasures in the wrong place, Mr. Lovett. Only life is priceless, and making each day count.

His fingers relax. He opens them slowly. Gently she slips the diamond out of his hand. He feels it sliding away.

Then, with an impish little grin, Rose tosses the necklace over the rail. Lovett gives a strangled cry and rushes to the rail in time to see it hit the water and disappear forever.


Aww!! That really sucks, lady!

Brock Lovett goes through ten changes before he settles on a reaction... HE LAUGHS. He laughs until the tears come to his eyes. Then he turns to Lizzy.


Would you like to dance?

Lizzy grins at him and nods. Rose smiles. She looks up at the stars.

308 IN THE BLACK HEART OF THE OCEAN, the diamond sinks, twinkling end over end, into the infinite depths.

Now, I don't know if those differences change anything in Michael's thesis (my gut reaction is, probably not), but it's still interesting to see "the road not taken" once in a while. I wonder if any of that stuff was filmed, or if the changes were made before shooting took place. But I'm really glad it was cut. The film didn't need this kind of "preachy" stuff at the end. (For a glimpse of James Cameron indulging his "preachy" side, check out the ending of the Director's Cut of The Abyss. As superior as I think the DC is to the theatrical release, he really lays it on thick at the end.)

Anyway, I know that what swept the nation in 1997 was a mass psychosis, and that now we're all supposed to admit that Titanic is one of the worst movies ever made and all, but I still like the bloody thing. Go figure.

(BTW, in this post, Michael's occasional co-blogger William Moon says this: "My grandparents have always said, 'To thine own self be true.' Now I know it likely comes from another source originally, but that is from where I've always heard it." It's from Hamlet, Act I, Scene III -- part of Polonius's advice to Laertes:

And these few precepts in thy memory
Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,
Nor any unproportion'd thought his act.
Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.
Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
Grapple them unto thy soul with hoops of steel;
But do not dull thy palm with entertainment
Of each new-hatch'd, unfledg'd comrade. Beware
Of entrance to a quarrel; but, being in,
Bear't that the opposed may beware of thee.
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice:
Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy:
For the apparel oft proclaims the man;
And they in France of the best rank and station
Are most select and generous chief in that.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be:
For loan oft loses both itself and friend;
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all,--to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell: my blessing season this in thee!

So William's grandparents were indoctrinating their young charge with Shakespeare. The devils!

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