It’s the biggest movie of all time – why on earth wouldn’t you go see it with a live orchestra playing the music? Titanic superfan Sam Brooks went last night and ascended to a higher plane of existence.
Titanic is one of the last true phenomenons of pop culture. Nothing has saturated the populace of the world quite like it – if you were alive in the nineties, you saw this movie in the cinemas. Hell, I saw it in the cinemas and I was only seven. It’s iconic and remembered for a whole heap of reasons including the love story, the length, the tireless door argument, but one of the keys reasons is the music.
Even people who are not ‘film score buffs’, by which I mean film score nerds like I am, know the music of Titanic. The music of Titanic turned Celine Dion from a Montreal-based curio into a living legend. So the prospect of hearing the music played live by an orchestra was tempting enough. I wanted to hear a pan flute live in the flesh, and I wanted that pan flute to trigger a visceral emotional response that had been deep in my bone marrow since the age of seven.
But the chance to actually watch the movie while I was hearing that music? And the chance to watch that movie in The Civic (aka New Zealand’s Hogwarts), the most beautiful and lavish place to watch a movie in the country? Done, sold, stitch me up, hook it up to my veins.
I’m not going to review a 20 year old movie here. If you love Titanic, you already love Titanic and don’t need somebody to explain to you why it’s one of the greatest movies of all time, because it really, really is and I will fight you on that. If you don’t love Titanic, you don’t care and also you’re wrong. The way the film splits itself perfectly even as a love story and an action film, the way the film sets up the building blocks of love, class, gender, disaster, and morality is unparalleled, especially at this level of blockbuster filmmaking. But if you’re a correct, true and honest person you already know and believe that.
There’s something about the high stakes and huge scope of Titanic that makes it ripe for a live orchestra. Of course the soundtrack is orchestral already, so by screening the movie in this setting you’re really just giving it the aural treatment it deserves.
The beautiful thing that this specific kind of screening does – and it’s something I’d love to see applied to other films of this scale with this quality of music – is it gives everything even higher stakes. Part of that is the venue: everything feels more significant when you’re watching it at the Civic. Part of that is the audience: everybody who is there to see a live screening of a movie with an orchestra playing the music is there because they really goddamned love that movie and want any chance to see it on the big screen.
And part of that is that live music makes everything feel heightened. Whether it’s Aldous Harding sitting on that stage by herself, an amateur production of Mamma Mia, or in this case, a 72 piece orchestra, a legit soloist (who is an almost-ringer for Celine Dion), the guy who did the whistles and pipes in the original film, and an adorable children’s choir – everything feels more important when it’s live.
So when Jack and Rose stand at the front of the ship and that pan flute (can anybody play a pan flute without Titanic being expected part of their repertoire now?) starts to play, you feel everything so much harder. It means more than if you were watching it on your laptop screen, half a bottle of wine down, half a Domino’s pizza in, sniffling to yourself. It becomes an event.
Which is what Titanic deserves. Is the film perfect? God no. Does it mean a lot to a lot of people? Hell yes. Everybody had that double-VHS. Everybody attracted to a man was attracted to Jack Dawson, eternally messing with our romantic expectations. Everybody cried when they saw the first class couple holding each other as the water came in and they almost literally died when they saw the third class woman putting her kids to bed for the last time.
Titanic Live gives the movie the feeling of being an event again, in the way only live music really can. The movie was already a phenom, it’s already dug deep into people’s hearts (or more accurately their childhoods and adolescences) and it has the sort of huge, three and a half hour scale where simply sitting down to watch it takes out a significant part of your day. Arranging an orchestra around it doesn’t just feel awesome, it feels right.
And I know this is the most important part, so here it is: I managed to not cry during the bits I usually cry at (the aforementioned first class couple and third class mum) but could not hold it together when Rose whispers “come back!” and blows the whistle. From that point on my face was readily saturated, as were the faces of the hundreds of people around me, right up until the key change in ‘My Heart Will Go On’, whereupon my soul ascended to a higher, purer plane of existence.
That’s Titanic, you guys.
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