James Cameron's Titanic: A Familiar Story

By Eileen Maugle 



Many films have been compared to Somewhere In Time, but James Cameron's Titanic is the first one to have so many interesting parallels. Intrigued with the Titanic story and having seen several versions, including the recent Broadway production, I looked forward to seeing Cameron's adaptation. So it was with great anticipation that I set off with my husband one rainy afternoon to see the movie. Little did I realize, like those who journeyed on that fateful voyage, the experience it was going to be.

This is the first film since SIT that touched me so deeply. As the theater lights filtered back on and the credits rolled down the screen, I sat with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes, absolutely enthralled. I commented to my husband about the beauty of the film and its SIT ending. For days afterwards, I could not get the story out of my mind. It slowly began to dawn on me that there were many similarities between SIT and Titanic. Maybe this was one of the reasons it had such a profound effect on me.

One obvious similarity is the year 1912 and the gorgeous costumes, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. The author of SIT, Richard Matheson, is a writer of science fiction; the author of the movie Titanic, James Cameron, is a director of science fiction/action films. Both stories begin with an old woman, and a picture captured, as a young woman gazed at the man she would always love. There is also a piece of jewelry that is returned full circle and a tragic twist of fate that separates the lovers forever.

In SIT old Elise returns the watch and is finally at peace with her quest. She then sits, reflects on the past spent with Richard and quietly dies. In Titanic old Rose returns the piece of jewelry, gazes at the photos of her life and reminisces about the things she did because of what she learned about living and love from Jack. She then retires to bed and she is seen lying very still - is she be sleeping or something else?

Let us look further at the leading characters . . . 

Elise is an actress; Rose will become one.

Strangely, the two actresses, Jane Seymour and Kate Winslet, who play the roles, are both English portraying American characters.

Richard/Jack are both artistic - one is a playwright the other an artist.

We see:

    Elise meet Richard by the water; Rose meet Jack on a body of water..

    Elise/Rose both discover love for the first time, lose it, and because of it find the rest of their life changed dramatically.

    Elise/Rose both pose for a photo/picture as they look into the eyes of the man they love.

    Elise remain behind at the Grand Hotel to find Richard; Rose remain behind on the Titanic to find Jack.

    Elise lose Richard because he accidentally finds a penny;

    Rose loses Jack because of a tragic accident. 

    Richard/Jack both disappear from view in a fade-away scene. 

    Richard/Jack both overcome what some would find to be insurmountable odds to be with the one they love. 

    Richard bound with ropes and hidden in a barn; Jack bound with handcuffs and hidden below decks. 

    Richard/Jack both die at a young age.

But, it is the ending of the SIT/Titanic that is the most familiar. The joining of the lover's hands is haunting in its similarity. Surely, James Cameron must have seen SIT. If not, where did he get his inspiration for this wondrous love story?

Titanic - a huge box office success; SIT small box office success. Titanic - huge budget; SIT - small budget. Yet each movie affected me equally to the depths of my romantic soul. I'm sure there are many other similarities between SIT and Titanic but for me, the one that stands out most among all the others, is the exquisite story of first love. Both films masterfully unfold the lovely discovery of first love with all its sweetness, joy and poignancy. They show that love is more important than money, fame or all the riches in the world; love can profoundly change a person's life. Both these films touch people of all ages throughout the world because of their common threads. So, I say to you when you raise your glass at the SIT weekend in October to celebrate Richard and Elise, remember Rose and Jack because they are intertwined Somewhere In Time.