Theme: Beauty, Affliction, Redemption, A Sacrificial Love Story
"For seventy-five years, the R.M.S. Titanic has possessed a nautical mystique second only to that of Noah's Ark. The inaccessibility of the Titanic's wreckage, resting some two miles deep in the North Atlantic, has seemed only to increase the ship's strange pull on all our imaginations. With the news breaking discovery of the Titanic's grave in 1985, we have relearned what our grandparents always knew: that there is something very special about the Titanic--something otherworldly and numinous that explorations of the wreck by manned submarine are just as likely to enhance as to dispel."
"We may have forgotten that in 1912 the foundering of the fabled White Star Liner was a twofold drama. One side of it was a monumental catastrophe: a luxury cruise transformed from paradise to Chaos in less than three hours. In America, the profound reaction to the disaster can only be compared to the aftermath of the assassinations of Lincoln and Kennedy, which were followed by periods of rapid and often frightening transition. In the case of the Titanic disaster, the entire English-speaking world was shaken; and for us, at least, the tragedy can be regarded as a watershed between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The sinking of the Titanic marked the end of an era. With her sank the smug Victorian dream that mankind's progressing technology was lifting the planet closer and closer to heaven. Out of the bitter loss of this cherished illusion came our present age--The Age of Anxiety--for which the foundering of the Titanic offered the first glimpse of reality." (The Titanic: End of a Dream by Wyn Craig Wade)
"There was peace, and the world had a even tenor to its way. True enough, from time to time there were events--catastrophes--like the Johnstown Flood, the San Francisco Earthquake, or floods in China, which stirred the sleeping world, but not enough to keep it from resuming its slumber. It seems to me that the disaster about to occur was the event, which not only made the world rub its eyes and awake, but woke it with a start; keeping it moving at a rapidly accelerating pace ever since, with less and less peace, satisfaction, and happiness.....To my mind the world of today awoke April 15, 1912." (John B. Thayer, Titanic passenger)
In December 1997, the motion picture Titanic was released. It combined the true story of the sinking of the Titanic with a sacrificial love story. It made more money and was viewed by more people than any other motion picture in history.
Logos: The motion picture Titanic opens with sepia toned scenes of the Titanic's maiden voyage departure. She is the grandest, most beautiful ship ever created. She is a metaphor for Eden, for earth sailing along in an ocean of blue. The title, Titanic, appears over dark waters, which speaks of her story. Just like Eden, she will fall into the deepest darkness.
Ghost Ship: The submarine descends into the darkness searching for the lost ship. The Titanic fell from above the night of April 15, 1912, and now rests in a dark grave. She is a picture of the fallen world, a picture of Eden lost.
The men in the submarine are searching for the "Heart of the Ocean", the diamond necklace owned by Louis XVI. As men in the fallen world do, they are searching for treasure while missing the real heart of the ocean, which is the Titanic and her passengers. They are searching for a very small story (the diamond), while all about them lays a very large story, which they simply do not understand. Rose Calvert appears to interpret the story for them.
Southampton: Rose calls the Titanic, "the Ship of Dreams", and yet to her it was a slave ship taking her home to America. Her clothes, make-up, and mannerisms all reflect the bondage she is in. Outwardly, the world (her mother) has shaped her; inwardly, she is screaming, not wanting to be married to the devil himself (Cal). These two (mother and Cal) will walk arm and arm throughout the movie trying to keep Rose within their grasp. Rose is blasé about the Titanic; it forces Cal to make the comment that God Himself could not sink the ship. The old lie of Eden is rephrased.
Departure: Jack's boarding of Titanic is altogether different from Rose's. The sharp contrast between the two worlds they inhabit begins right here. He wins a ticket, which means he is going home. Unlike her slow walk up the gangplank, he leaps aboard at the last moment. While she unpacks cases of luggage in her staterooms, he throws his single bag on a bunk bed. He is freedom personified. Filled with life, he runs, leaps, shouts, and waves; truly, his cup runneth over.
The class structure of the ship reflects the world's class systems. First Class is the wealthy industrialized nations; Second class is the developing nations; and Third Class is the third world. It is this class, a microcosmic of the world, to which Jack (the Christ figure) appears. Running to the bow he proclaims, "I'm king of the world." [See note on dolphins]
You Jump, I Jump: In her desperation to escape, Rose runs, seeing death as the only way out. This is always what results from bondage to the world and the devil (Romans 6:23). Jack, who has seen her from afar, is there to rescue her, to pull her back from the brink of disaster. This is where the word "trust" enters the movie. It will become their word.
There is a striking contrast with Jack saving Rose, and Cal's trying to purchase her. Cal pulls out the Heart of the Ocean diamond to tempt her into opening her heart. He tells her, "There isn't anything I couldn't give you." (This sounds very much like Luke 4:6) She may have given him her body, but she has not given him her heart.
You See People: "You see people," Rose states while looking at Jack's art book. He sees and is interested in their hearts, their stories (i.e. Madame Bijoux, the one legged prostitute). He sees Rose and knows she wouldn't have jumped. He knows her heart and has come to set it free. He gives her a description of the life of freedom: roller coaster rides, horseback riding on the beach, even the freedom to spit in the wind, which he humorously demonstrates.
Snake Pit / A Real Party: The First Class dinner party is contrasted with the "real party" in steerage. One is boring, dull, predictable, with the participants having the same molded expressions and false exteriors. Inwardly, they all are lovers of money, and that qualifies them for "the club". They cannot comprehend the "rootless existence" of Jack Dawson or his philosophy of life being a gift with the need to make each day count.
Down below in steerage, a wild joyous celebration is taking place. A grand mixture of nationalities, ages, and sexes has come together to celebrate life. Here Rose tastes real freedom and real joy. This terrifies her mother and infuriates her fiancée. He responds by abusing her; while her mother threatens her. To both of them, Rose is a means to an end. For him, she will be the beautiful trophy wife; while for her mother, she represents financial security and the survival of their good name. The scene of her lacing the stays of Rose's corset is symbolic of the world shaping, binding, and conforming people to its image.
"They Have You Trapped": During the worship service on board the Titanic, Rose (the true church) is surrounded by Cal (the devil) and her mother (the world). She is focused, while their attention is set on guarding her and keeping Jack out. Jack is determined to get to her even if he has to go about it in an unorthodox way, i.e. climbing over the railing. As he calls her aside, we see a picture of selfless love. All Jack wants is to know if she will be alright. "They've got you, Rose; and sooner or later, your fire will go out." It is a sharp contrast with the selfish consuming "love" she has just experienced with Cal and her mother. She is so filled with fear that she rejects the call to freedom.
"I'm Flying": The sunset scene on the bow of Titanic is the most beautiful one in the movie. After having second thoughts, Rose makes her choice for freedom, for life. She goes searching for Jack and finds him in his favorite spot. Her hair and clothes reflect the freedom she is beginning to move into. He pulls her up with him, and she spreads her arms, pretending to fly. Like the butterfly on her hair clip [see note], she has been released from her cocoon. With the simple words, "I trust you", she enters a whole new world.
The Drawing / "Find Her": [The following notes are presented from a spiritual metaphor viewpoint. In no way do they condone pre-marital sexual relationships.] The implication in both the drawing scene and the intimate lovemaking scene is that he has an innocence, which she does not have. She represents the church that, even though soiled by the world and the devil, is still loved by Christ, who sees and knows all her flaws.
"Iceberg Right Ahead": The Titanic sailing along in pride, trying to achieve even more glory (arriving early), strikes the iceberg (Proverbs 16:18). She has ignored all the warnings, just like the inhabitants of Eden.
AFFLICTION (The Fall)
Death of Titanic: The sinking of Titanic is an incredible picture of "the fall". One of the things to pay attention to is speed. When the Titanic hits the iceberg, people are hardly disturbed, even though she has received a fatal blow. The closer she gets to sinking, the faster everything takes place.
The seven hundred people in the lifeboats are symbolic of those who do not receive eternal salvation. "Afterwards the seven hundred in boats had nothing to do but wait. Wait to die, wait to live, wait for an absolution which would never come."
The priest quotes from Revelation 21:1-4: "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there was no longer any sea. And I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away'."
The Promise: Jack rescues Rose by finding a piece of wreckage for her to float on. Realizing it won't hold both of them, he sacrifices himself in order to save her life. He tells her of the life she is going to live. It will be a long, fruitful one (children), and she will die an old lady warm in her bed. He makes her promise to live, and tells her that winning the ticket was the best thing that ever happened to him because it brought him to her.
Christ, in His first coming, did the same thing for His bride, the church. He died in order that she might live. He designed for her a life of freedom and fruit bearing.
REDEMPTION (The Grand Restoration)
Promise Kept: The movie ends with the old Rose returning the necklace to the ocean. The value to her was not monetary; it represented her heart. Having lived the life he purchased for her, as evidenced by the photos in her stateroom, she is now ready to go back to the Titanic. She dies an old woman warm in her bed.
After she dies, the scene returns to the Titanic. Suddenly, all things are made new (Revelation 21:5). There she is in her beautiful wedding gown. He meets her in his simple garments. This is the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-9). All those who died in the water (symbolic of the redeemed) surround them in joyous applause.
Song of Songs
Dolphin: A dolphin signifies salvation, speed, love, and diligence. With a ship they represent the church being guided by Christ. Because they are reputed to rescue drowning sailors, the dolphin symbolizes Christ, the Savior. (Signs and Symbols by Clare Gibson)
Butterfly: Christian tradition accepts the butterfly as an emblem of resurrection (the caterpillar signifies life; the cocoon death). Additionally, the butterfly is considered as a symbol of vanity and transience because it lives for such a short time. (Signs and Symbols by Clare Gibson)
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe-
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
The old moon asked the three.
"We have come to fish for the herring fish
That live in this beautiful sea;
Nets of silver and gold have we?"
Said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
The old moon laughed and sang a song,
As they rocked in the wooden shoe,
And the wind that sped them all night long
Ruffled the waves of dew.
The little stars were the herring fish
That lived in that beautiful sea-
"Now cast your nets wherever you wish-
Never afeard are we";
So cried the stars to the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
All night long their nets they threw
To the stars in the twinkling foam-
Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe,
Bringing the fishermen home;
'Twas all so pretty a sail it seemed
As if it could not be,
And some folks thought 'twas a dream they'd dreamed
Of sailing that beautiful sea-
Nut I shall name you the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
Is the wee one's trundle-bed.
So shut your eyes while mother sings
Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
As you rock in the misty sea,
Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three:
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
Eugene Field Links