How Growing Up Can Make the Same Film Look So Different
“I want to sex Jack.” – An actual excerpt from my first grade diary.
I first saw Titanic in 1997, when it was still in theaters. As a six-year-old girl, I fell in love with Jack Dawson, and was hypnotized by the way James Cameron used special effects to make a ship break in half before my eyes. I wanted to speak with an English accent, and swore to myself that I would, one day, marry someone who would “never let go” of me, even in the Atlantic Ocean. I wrote a book report about a picture book entitled “All About Leo” — you can assume what it was all about. Soon after, my teacher sent me home with a letter for my parents, notifying them that the book was not “book report material.” But I was undeterred. “Titanic” is, arguably, the best love story ever written — Romeo and Juliet aboard a ship.
As I grew older, though, I became more entranced with the boat itself, and started to realize that there was more to the story than a spoiled, formerly-suicidal aristocrat falling in love with an irresistibly attractive nomad. Even after the movie went from theaters to VHS and, eventually, to DVD, my love for “Titanic” never faded —it grew stronger. Which is why my jaw dropped and my heart sank when, sitting in a theater a few months ago, I heard the first note of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” followed by the signature sound of the Titanic’s bells. Tears started to fill my eyes as I realized that “Titanic” would be re-released in theaters, and in 3-D. I do no exaggerate when I say that I began to sob uncontrollably. I counted down the days until I could see my favorite movie back on the big screen again.
After months of obsessively posting about it on Facebook, I saw “Titanic” in theaters shortly after it was re-released on April 4. It is hard to put the experience into words. For starters, the conversion to 3D didn’t cheapen “Titanic,” as 3D so often does. Instead, I felt like a part of history. Even more than that, though, the 3D effect inspired a sense of belonging; it made everything in the movie not just awesome, but tangible. Everybody in that theatre felt what I was feeling. They felt the nostalgia as they relived Jack and Rose’s perfect romance, and they cried right along side me. They cheered when Jack yelled, “I’m the king of the world!” They laughed when the 101-year old version of Rose proclaimed that being sketched naked was “the most erotic thing she’d ever done.” They cried when Rose jumped off of the safety boat and back onto the ship to be with Jack.
The film never hit me harder than it did that night. I didn’t know what love was when I was six-year-old; I didn’t respect Jack and Rose’s romance, and I didn’t understand so many of the film’s other, more tragic elements. But seeing it now, 15 years later, I took so much more from the film than I ever had before. I recognized Rose’s angst and her suffocation, how she was trapped with her wealthy family and her horrible fiancé. And I realized that even though she couldn’t literally escape from her family — after all, they were on a boat — she managed to escape from them, figuratively, with Jack.
Seeing “Titanic” in theaters evoked feelings that the small screen just can’t offer, even when TBS is showing the film — with no commercial breaks — on a Saturday night. More than that, though, it made me realize how much has changed — how much my friends and I have matured, how much I have grown into an adult. I cried during scenes that I hardly noticed when I was six, as I finally understood that the movie is about so much more than the beautiful Leonardo DiCaprio. And as the credits began to roll, and Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” began to play in full, I completely lost it. I sobbed, embarrassingly, but for different reasons than ever before. I was sad that it was over, sad that was the closest experience I could ever have with the film. Most of all, I was nostalgic for the days when I was a child and viewed the world through such a simple lens.
Even after cleaning up my face in the bathroom, I wore my 3D glasses to cover my red eyes. My friends and I exited the theatre in silence, and went outside into the real world. We texted our friends, checked our emails, and probably tweeted something stupid about how amazing the film was. The experience was over. But “Titanic” will always evoke a specific feeling within me. It always has, and when I entered the theater for the 3D experience, I expected it would again. What I didn’t expect was the way that feeling transformed into something much deeper and personal. Fifteen years after I first saw it, “Titanic” managed to affect me in an entirely new way.
That was the last time I’ll watch it. The film’s emotional weight — and the way it weighs on me, personally, —is just too much to bear. Even if it is playing on TBS.