The Titanic was released in 1997 and became one of the most celebrated motion pictures to have been made. It was honored with four Golden Globe awards besides the Producer Guild of America Award and Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director being prominent amongst countless more nominations and awards (DiCaprio and Winslet). This paper shall highlight the archetypal and mythic patterns in the movie that contributed to the exponential success that the movie attained (University of Kansas, Midcontinent American Studies Association, Joyce and Elizabeth Hall Center for the Humanities).
The titanic constituted of a lengthy cast which comprised of actors and actresses playing the characters of fictional characters on the ship as well as a few who represented the real people who were present on the ship.
Notable leads in the cast included Leonardo Di Caprio as a fictional character who is a penniless man with nothing to lose and lives life as it comes forth, Kate Winslet as a fictional character who a young girl belonging to the upper class and has the fervor to break free of the hassles of a rich life but lacks the courage to do so, Billy Zane as fianc to Kate Winslet’s character, Frances Fisher as Kate Winslet’s character’s widowed mother, Victor Garber as Thomas Andrews Junior who was in reality present on the ship when it sailed and was the ship’s builder, as well as Gloria Stuart, Bernard Hill and Bill Paxton playing fictional characters as well.
However, it was the fact of knowing that a few of the members of the cast had actually once existed and had been involved in the actions shown in the movie that was the reason for the continuous attention that the movie captured. Elements such as the ship’s band that kept playing as the ship neared its end in the movie as well as the fact that the ship’s band really did play music on the deck when the ship was about to sink are only a few of the numerous archetypal and mythical elements that contributed to the success of the movie.
With regard to myths, one cannot help but be astounded by the sheer number of myths that pertain to the sinking of the Titanic. The titanic’s coal burner was believed to have caught fire and the fire was said to have gone on for days and is attributed to the possible developments of weaknesses in the ship’s hull. Similar myths include those that argue that not only were there were insufficient trained hands on the titanic to launch lifeboats and the myth about the Mummy of Amen-Ra and the curse that it had on it (titanic-titanic.com).
A fact that has to do with the archetypical with regard to the titanic is the fact that the ship was considered to be absolutely unsinkable. The degree of faith in this perception was to such an extent that when the news of the sinking of The Titanic reached The Daily Mirror, it boldly published that everybody on board was completely safe after the world’s greatest ocean liner collided with an iceberg in the Atlantic Ocean (Howells 192). A fact that is given little or no consideration is that the understanding of the fact that the titanic was unsinkable came only once the titanic had sunk.+
However, when watching the movie, it is clear that the movie focuses on the perception that the titanic was considered to be an invincible ship and there was no force of nature that could sink it. The ship was presented as a monument to man’s conquest upon the forces of nature and there were regular instances where the magnanimous proportions of the ship were highlighted.
Having built the reputation of the ship to such an extreme height, it comes as no surprise that the audience is left riveted when this monument to man’s power upon nature crumbles and perishes into the depths of the ocean.
When the ship actually sinks, putting aside the fictional story that was woven into it, the sequence of events that pertained to the lifeboats and the rescue teams from nearby ships contributes to questions rising in the mind of the audience about the ordeal that the actual victims of the titanic must have gone through and how they must have felt when they sank to their deaths (Bergfelder and Street).
We can therefore conclude that the role of the mythical and archetypal aspects of the movie were of primary significance and played a significant role in the success of the movie. The mere fact that the titanic is a part of history whose story is known and whose fate has been written and taken place is more than the motivation that is needed to appreciate the movie as it progresses and portrays the titanic in all its splendor and glory as it does so.
Bergfelder, Tim and Sarah Street. The Titanic in myth and memory: representations in visual and literary culture. I.B.Tauris, 2004.
Howells, Richard Parton. The myth of the Titanic. Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.
Titanic . Dir. James Cameron. Perf. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. 1997.
titanic-titanic.com. Titanic, myths, legends, truth and fact. 2007. 2 June 2009 .
University of Kansas, Midcontinent American Studies Association, Joyce and Elizabeth Hall Center for the Humanities. American studies. University of Kansas, 1990.