I have a confession to make: Last Friday was the first time I ever saw “Titanic.”
It was my first excursion on the RMS Titanic with ’90s Leonardo DiCaprio (“Inception”) and Kate Winslet (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) in all their glory. It was the first time I ever saw Jack and Rose dance below deck, talk about their future together and spit over the railings. It was the first time I saw That Sunset Scene (you know which one I’m talking about). It was the first time I had ever heard Rose in the future recount a tragedy that none of her listeners could really grasp the severity of — and I don’t just mean Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton, “Aliens” ) or Lewis Bodine (Lewis Abernathy, “The Name of God”). I mean us viewers in the audience, too. It was the first time I saw the Titanic sink. It was the first time I really understood why it hurt so much that the raft wasn’t big enough. It was the first time I heard “My Heart Will Go On” in its original context.
I saw “Titanic” on Valentine’s Day, surrounded by elderly couples with their arms wound tightly around each other, crying quietly as Jack and Rose promised to never let go. As I watched the film, the coughs, sneezes and sniffles of Michigan in February faded away, and I found myself immersed in 1912 aboard the Titanic with characters I had heard about all my life but never really known.
I knew the story, of course — or at least I thought I did. Jack. Rose. “I’m the king of the world!” The raft isn’t big enough. “My Heart Will Go On.” Screen fades to black. As it turns out, there is much, much more to this movie than I had thought. I didn’t really know the story until I watched it.
There are some moments in movies that were surprising when they were first released, but as someone born in 2001, I grew up knowing my whole life. Darth Vader is Luke’s father. Haley Joel Osment could actually see dead people. And Jack Dawson dies.
But here’s the thing. Tragedy is horrific when it takes you by surprise, but it’s worse when you know it’s coming. You watch “Titanic” and take in the extravagance of the beautiful ship with not enough lifeboats, knowing that it’s going to sink. You smile from your seat as you watch Jack and Rose fall in love, but your smile fades when you remember that their ending isn’t happily ever after. You see them, holding each others’ hands tightly as Rose lays on the raft and Jack remains afloat beside her, and can’t help but think maybe this one time I watch this movie, it won’t have the ending I know it will. But it does.
Last Friday was the first time I cried while watching “Titanic,” surrounded by other people saddened on Valentine’s Day, choosing to spend it crying on their partner’s shoulder (or in my case, my roommate Sophia’s).
“Titanic” has always been one of those movies I never really thought I had to see. The ending wasn’t predictable, per se, but it was common knowledge. So I figured, why watch this sad movie with an ending I already know? Here’s why: “Titanic” teaches you something. Not about falling in love in three days or about spitting in Billy Zane’s (“The Phantom”) face. Not even about the Titanic sinking. It teaches you something about the people around you, the people you watch the movie with. That they’re important to you in a way that you can only understand when you’re reminded of just how short life is. It teaches you to never let go of them. It reminds everyone of their personal love story, not necessarily one of romance. Perhaps it’s familial, like Rose and her mother’s tragic relationship. Or maybe it’s friendship, like Jack and Fabrizio (Danny Nucci, “Crimson Tide”). Or maybe it is love. Whatever it is, “Titanic” reminds you to cherish it and remember how important it is to you before it’s too late.