Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Moments worth remembering

You must have been hiding away in a dark cave somewhere remote not to know that last weekend was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic, on 15 April 1912.

I couldn't help feeling a little cynical. I don't mean that I don't think it was a tragedy. I do. But I couldn't help feel that blockbuster-movie-studios and TV networks all jumped on the bandwagon, flooding (pardon the pun) our theatres and TV screens with their unique take and explanation on those tragic events. That said, I was sucked in.

A series of events came together on that night to claim the lives of 1514 people. It was all very sad. The Titanic represented the dreams of many and its passing robbed them and their loved ones of those dreams. It does shock me, no matter which movie version I watch, be that A Night To Remember or James Cameron's Leonardo D'icaprio and Kate Winslet offering, just as I am equally shocked when I see repeats of the twin towers collapsing.

Hollywood regularly makes disaster movies. It took almost 50 years after the event for Hollywood to make a film of the Titanic loss, but barely 5 years passed before a plethora of movies appeared about the 2996 lives lost during the 911 terrorist attacks.

But in terms of human loss these pale compared to some since the Titanic sank to her watery grave. In 1932 a famine in Russia claimed an astonishing 5 million people, and the grandaddy of them all, the Spanish flu pandemic, claimed over 50 million worldwide in 1918.

Yet we don't, maybe thankfully, see movies of these events hitting our screens. What we get instead are films about the Hindenburg for example, where a small amount of human life was lost in comparison.

Why is this? Why the fascination with these smaller events. Is it more manageable for our minds to cope with and imagine? How long will it be before we see movies about losing 7 astronauts in the Challenger and Columbia shuttle events? There have certainly been a number of documentaries on more recent natural disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and most recently, the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, which has claimed almost 20,000 lives, and counting.

So is it which stories studios feel would be in better taste than others to make? Or is Hollywood simply out of original stories of its own? It's certainly got something to do with our human morbid curiosity. It certainly doesn't rely on a passage of any significant length of time these days.

I actually think it's the romantically tragic side of the most well known stories that drives their appeal. Ironic that something so terrible, and largely preventable, could be romanticised a century later. But they epitomise the loss of dreams, the forced changes in our lives and the loss of close loved ones. Hollywood tries to make it more personable and hence they become immortalised in our memories, even though we weren't actually there at the time in most cases. I wonder if we would be marking the sinking of the Titanic if Cameron had not made his film in 1997.

Whatever it is, James Cameron feels that it's time to experience more of the reality and has released Titanic in 3D.

What next? I hate to think.

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