— fengshui

Analyze a Movie: Titanic

One of my all time favorite movies and also one of AFI’s list of the Best 100 Movies of all time is the Titanic. Although I’m not all that ecstatic about the 3-D version, it is still one of the most emotional and aesthetically provocative movies I have ever seen. Directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron, this 1997 fictional film production stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson and Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater. The film is categorized in the historical/love drama genre according to AMC Film Genres site. It is a magnificent romance story between two social classes in the midst of a tragic historical event, the sinking of the Titanic. There are key scenes in this movie that depicts many elements described by Robert Ebert in his article “How to Read a Movie“. 

I would like to focus on a couple of scenes that provokes aesthetic reaction and visual compositions that have “intrinsic weighting,” or “certain areas of the available visual space have tendencies to stir emotional or aesthetic reactions” which is noted in Robert Ebert’s article. But first, here’s a trailer to give you an insight of some of the aesthetic and devastating moments within the film.

I would like to draw out a variety of emotions that this movie provokes — wonder and awe of the ship, journey of the voyage of the ship to a new land, new found love, fear resulting in the sinking of the ship, and it goes on. Ebert states in his article “the rule of thumb in the composition of a shot: Right is more positive, left more negative. Movement to the right seems more favorable; to the left, less so. The future seems to live on the right, the past on the left. The top is dominant over the bottom. The foreground is stronger than the background.” In the “I’m flying” scene with Jack and Rose, the camera is anchored down on Jack as the ship sails to the right, which gives a good sense of direction on both ends. Then Rose enters the scene as Jack guides her to the top of the railing, the camera is anchored up on both of them. This positioning of the camera is imperative in this scene because it provides a sense of perspective and is crucial to provoke an emotion of awe. I especially love the angle of rotation where the camera circles as the ship is sailing from the left and it comes around the ship so that the ship is sailing in the right direction, to the right. According to Ebert, movement to the right indicates a better future.

Another scene that deals with the the positioning of the characters is where Jack draws a nude portrait for Rose. When Rose lays on the fancy couch, her face is positioned in a way that faces the direction of Jack and the camera only focuses on Rose’s face, Jack’s face, his eyes, and the movement of his hand as he’s painting Rose. This objectifying of the subject centers on the nitty gritty details that makes this scene perform its very best. At 1:24 the camera shifts the POV to Jack’s eyes which enhances him and brings out the concentration in his eyes. I thought this scene was very beautiful because it brings out the aesthetic feature of the woman and the portrait Jack draws for Rose illustrates that she is a masterpiece. 

Some TV tropes used in this film were the Always Save the Girl and Chase Scene. These two tropes clashes during the “You jump, I jump” scene where both Jack and Cal Hockley convinces Rose to get on the lifeboat along with the other women and children. Both are willing to do anything to save the girl they love. Then at last minute when the boat is still lowering, Rose jumps into an open window and frantically runs to find Jack. Then follows the chase/gun scene between the two lovers and Cal Hockley, who becomes angry and frustrated that he can’t have Rose. 

I am so amazed how the producer uses various visual compositions of a shot to piece different scenes together. It is all so cleverly composed. With the use of intrinsic weighting, you can’t go wrong with screening a scene. Elbert states that you can’t go wrong with going against intrinsic weighting either, because it “exists in the realm of emotional tendencies” which means that it has to portray to the audience’s emotions. By analyzing this movie, I’ve learned a lot about compositions of a shot.