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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: January 31, 2012 @ 8:00 am

    A centenary to remember: Titanic on screen

    Laura Slattery

    Glossing aside for one moment, or indeed forever more, the ever-so-slight contradiction in celebrating a feat of engineering that rather swiftly became a byword for disaster, April 15th marks 100 years since the sinking of the Titanic, and more cash-ins abound than there were passengers on board. From the shipyards of Belfast to the decades of survivors’ guilt that followed, expect the story of this all-too-sinkable ship to make regular appearances on your television and cinema screens this spring. Here are just five of the Titanic-themed offerings sending maritime thrills and chills your way:

    1. Titanic 3D. Jack! Rose! Jack! Rose! You remember this one, from director and Titanic obsessive James Cameron. Travel back in time to 1912 / 1997 to watch a boyish Leonardo di Caprio declare himself “king of the world” in full retro-fitted 3D glory, his arms stretching out into the cinema from the bow of the ship. Marvel as the stern rises in the air and plunges into the ocean, bodies hurtling off the sides and water lapping over the heads of your fellow cinema-goers. And pause to note how Kate Winslet’s survival is indeed a historically accurate reflection of the ship’s “women and children first” policy. It’s due out April 6th… you know you want to.

    2. Titanic: Blood and Steel. Directed by Ciaran Donnelly and filmed in both Dublin and Serbia, this 12-part mini-series sounds like it has the biggest potential tourism “ker-ching” for Belfast. Rather than concentrating on the ill-fated maiden voyage itself, the action starts in 1897, telling the story of the ship’s 15-year construction in Edwardian Belfast. Expect to hear dialogue that goes a bit like this (only more authentically Edwardian)… Harland and Wolff shipyard manager: “But, sir, the ship’s capable of carrying 64 lifeboats!” J Bruce Ismay, White Star Line president: “Bloody hell, that’s a bit pricey. Happily, we’re only legally required to carry a quarter of that amount.”

    3. Titanic. This four-part UK / Canada  / Hungary co-production is scripted by Julian “Downton Abbey” Fellowes, so expect the upstairs-downstairs angle to be propelled to the fore. It boasts an impressive cast, including Toby Jones, David Calder, Lyndsey Marshal, Linus Roache, Geraldine Somerville, James Wilby, Peter Wight, Celia Imrie and Ireland’s own Maria Doyle Kennedy. Due to be simulcast on ITV1 and TV3 on Thursdays starting from April 12th, this really does contain the famous last words “we’ll never need lifeboats for every passenger” – the trailer, which modestly describes the show as “the television event of 2012”, is now on YouTube. Let’s hope it’s more original than its title.

    4. Saving the Titanic. Announced as part of RTÉ’s spring schedule, Saving the Titanic is a drama documentary  focusing on the “engine room heroes” who worked to keep the electric power running as the ship sank – their sacrifice not only kept the lights on, but meant the electric lifeboat winches remained operational, allowing others to survive. The docudrama, co-produced by Ireland’s Tile Films and Germany’s GebruederBeetzFilmproduktion, is based on eye-witness accounts of nine engineers who worked among the coal-fired furnaces and massive dynamos to satisfy the ship’s demand for electricity. It will be shown at the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival on February 17th.

    5. Titanic and Me. The BBC’s contribution to the genre, this documentary series is presented by Strictly Come Dancing judge Len Goodman, who aspires to “delve beyond the Hollywood myths and into the lives of the families who struggled with the loss of husbands, wives, sons and daughters”. Given the last surviving passenger of the Titanic died in 2009, testimonies come from descendants “for whom the Titanic is part of family folklore”. Shot in Southhampton and Northern Ireland, the three half-hour episodes have been made for the BBC by Derry-based history specialists 360 Production. What’s Len Goodman got to do with all of this? Well, he used to be a welder at Harland and Wolff – so there.

    And if all of these tragic delights leave you iceberg-cold, well there’s always Bee Gee Robin Gibb’s classical music tribute, Titanic Requiem.

    • Laura, Your opeing liner..eh line, was sailing a well soaked course, I suggest. Fickle finger of fate ..causailty…bad decions by owner and captaon and down the chain of command …and nexus connexus-plexus—ultimately wrexsus…doth not make necessarily bad engineering.

      The tragedy of Air France 447, as recent as July 2009 was very sadly pilot error, or what has been termed ‘brain feeze’ under severe pressure of circumstance, by co-pilots. It was not the French airplane, per se. Immensely sad!

      The fictional Holly wood accounts of the 1912 incident have escaped me, as have most glossy offerings since and post the collapse of Californian cinema for me , circa late 1970′s .
      I recall the alluring Barbara Stanwyck was on onboard the vessel, when I last looked at this nautical diversion c 1953.

      Yet, as I write…I may be’taking on water’ regarding the subject of this ship.
      I recall reading quite recently of the use of second rate rivets during the build at H&W..

      Your opening gambit could be more watertight after all, and certainly moreso than it’s subject; but you’ll accept in a ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ ‘kinda ‘way ; tragedies involving engineering or technology- ‘evolve’ themselves out of many circumstances.

      Nothing is quite, as it may seem!

      Or as a former US Defense Sec would say quite soundly if not clearly enough for some;…”There are known knowns; there are things we know we know……there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know……there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

      Simple really!. Being of a Mercury, Gemini, Apollo generation 1955-..I’m in an ‘atheist’ state now as regards the Moon landing’ -althoough the work done at NASA-I’ve seen since then; —is extraordinary 1958-2012.

    • Excuse typos/and syntax on what went before- Here is a ‘cleaner’ draft to replace it.

      Your opening liner..I mean line,… was sailing a well soaked course of cliche, Laura. I suggest that the ‘fickle finger of fate, other paradigms of causality including the bad decisons by owner and captain; and down the chain of command …were the nexus connexus-plexus—and ultimately the wrexsus of this vessel, and not necessarily bad engineering.

      The tragedy of Air France 447, as recent as July 2009 was very sadly pilot error, or what has been termed ‘brain feeze’ under severe pressure of circumstance, by co-pilots. It was not the French airplane, per se.

      Immensely sad!

      The fictional Holly wood accounts of the 1912 incident have escaped me, as have most glossy offerings since and post the collapse of Californian cinema for me , circa late 1970′s . I recall the alluring Barbara Stanwyck was on onboard the vessel, when I last looked at this nautical diversion c 1953.

      Yet, as I write; I may be’taking on water’ regarding the Titanic. I recall reading quite recently of the use of second rate rivets during the build at H&W. Your opening gambit could be more watertight after all, and certainly moreso, than it’s subject; but you’ll accept

      I hope Laura, in a ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’ ‘kinda ‘way ; tragedies involving engineering or technology- ‘evolve’ themselves out of many circumstances.

      Nothing is quite, as it may seem! Or as a former US Defense Sec. said unusually soundly if not clearly enough for some;.”There are known knowns; there are things we know we know……there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know……there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don’t know.”

      Being of a Mercury, Gemini, Apollo generation 1955-..I’m currently agnostic as regards the moon landing’ -althoough the work done at NASA-I’ve seen since then; —is extraordinary 1958-2012.

      I see from your article now-50 years RTE -that we are of the same mind .

    • Elpenor says:

      May I recommend “Titanic Ireland”, for those of you who haven’t yet located the lifeboats?

    • JOD says:

      There might be a scene in that ”Titanic – Blood and Steel” that’s been filmed on Hume Street just off Stephen’s Green and it’ll have a few ancient motorcars driving about and people in bowler hats and shawleens and lots of smog. I think there’s an old sign hanging from one of the buildings that says ”Chatham Hotel” that was put there for the filming also. If there is I’ll be watching it and thinking ”There’s me and my kids standing just behind the camera” ‘cos we were, on a Saturday last November, when they filmed it there. We were walking back from my oldest girl’s basketball match at a nearby school and saw the film crews and actors and stopped for a look.

      V. interesting to see how the magic of the camera, smoke machines, costumes and lovely old motors can transform a modern Dublin street into a turn of the (last) century Belfast street. Will be keeping an especial eye out for the security camera that’s on the wall of the reddish orange building that faces down Hume St. from Ely place it’s painted the same colour as the wall I wonder will the producers notice it and edit it out. Heh might end up being printed like the VW Beetle parked in a corner of the chariot arena in Ben Hur.


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