A centenary to remember: Titanic on screen
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.