BIFF Review: Saving the Titanic

-By Helen Russell

It is bold of any film maker to tackle the Titanic. For most of us the word “Titanic” alone conjures up images of Kate and Leo and the warbling of Celine Dion. However, Maurice Sweeney’s docudrama moves swiftly away from the clichés and tells the moving true story of the engineers on board the Titanic, as they strive to fight against the destructive powers of the sea.

Narrated by Liam Cunningham, the film skilfully switches between scenes re-enacting the drama on board the ship and documentary-style descriptions of both the boat’s design and the historical context of the voyage. There is a clever use of original film clips here, constantly reminding us that the events are not fiction. The acted portions of the film focus on the engineers, electricians and fire-stokers working in the heart of the great ship and we follow their turmoil and bravery as the disaster evolves.

The film is shot intimately, rarely leaving the lower quarters of the ship, allowing us to share in the workers’ experience of unknown dangers and frightening darkness. This also allows the sinking of the ship to be depicted impressively on a modest budget proving that, if dealt with cleverly, subject matter such as the Titanic doesn’t require a Hollywood price-tag.

Although at points the film attempts too much, for example the story-line touching on religious division in Ireland does not have enough screen-time to reach any real poignancy, Saving the Titanic is likely to teach you something new about a historical event you thought you knew everything about. The film doesn’t utilise dramatic CGI or overly-emotive music, reminding us that heroism is rarely glamorous, and that a hero’s story often goes untold.

-Helen saw Saving the Titanic as part of the British Independent Film Festival at the Cameo Cinema, Edinburgh, on 1st May 2013

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