Titanic Centenary Marked At BFI Southbank April 2012
April 2012 marks the centenary of the tragic sinking of the Titanic along with the loss of 1,517 passengers
The intervening years and countless tales of heroism to emerge from the disaster have caused the event to gain near mythical status in film and television; the distinct lack of footage from either the disaster and of the ship prior to its departure only fuelling the intrigue. BFI Southbank gathers together many of the filmed dramatisations of the disaster for a commemorative season that spans interpretations of the event from Britain, (Atlantic 1929, A Night to Remember 1958) and the US (Titanic 1953) via a unique take on the disaster from the propaganda machine of Nazi era Germany (Titanic 1943).
Other highlights of the centenary are set to include an exclusive preview of ITV’s upcoming series, Titanic (2012), written by Julian Fellowes followed by a Q&A with the writer, director and cast members that will kick of BFI’s celebrations on 20 March, the newly re mastered version of James Cameron’s Blockbuster Titanic 3D (2012) opening at BFI IMAX on April 5, an illustrated lecture from author Join Charles Barr on Alfred Hitchcock’s abandoned Titanic Project, a specially curated Mediatheque collection and a Mezzanine display marking the event.
Shortly before midnight on 14 April 1912, the maiden voyage of the White Star Line’s beacon of luxury and progress, RMS Titanic, ended in tragedy when she struck an iceberg and sank in the early hours of 15 April. Less than a third of the vast liner’s passengers and crew survived, prompting international outrage. A century later, this unprecedented maritime catastrophe maintains its grim fascination, not least for generations of filmmakers drawn into the tangled web of fact and fiction now firmly embedded in our popular culture.
The earliest newsreel reactions to the tragedy embraced poetic license from the off, piecing together the story for a public now hungry for the moving image in ingenious, if morally rather suspect, ways. Lavish dramas immortalised the putative heroes and villains of April 1912, from the rich and famous (John Jacob Astor IV, ‘Unsinkable’ Molly Brown Bruce Ismay) to the humbler likes of Wireless Operator Jack Phillips and his Captain, Edward J Smith.
While Rank’s A Night to Remember (1958) remains for many the definitive screen portrayal, the Titanic canon encompasses, among others, an almost forgotten multi-language epic (Atlantic, 1929), a 1943 Nazi propaganda vehicle championed by Goebbels, and James Cameron’s 1997 box office behemoth (now re-launched in 3D, naturally), not forgetting IMAX explorations of the wreck and a legion of documentaries unpicking the minutiae of the sinking and myriad conspiracy theories. Two major new mini-series produced to coincide with this anniversary offer a reminder that among the defining events of the 20th century, the Titanic endures as the most potent symbol of man’s fallibility - and the cinematic lure of the sea.