Titanic, soon to be reissued in 3D, is a strange cultural phenomenon: It’s one of the most wildly popular movies ever made, but I am one of the few people I know who actually likes it. Part of the problem may be the company I keep: I have lived in Manhattan, inside the D.C. Beltway, and in Cambridge, Mass., so it may be a case of Pauline Kael Syndrome. Whatever the reason for others’ dislike of the film, though, I have loved it since I first saw it back in 1997: I think it’s an emotionally resonant drama with spectacular production values, and in my book that combination should be good enough for anybody.
A friend passes along to me a new, self-published e-book that tries to show that the film’s appeal stems largely from its portrayal of a Christian understanding of the world. In God at the Movies: Why We Love Titanic, an 83-page essay available through Amazon, Teresa L. Major makes the case that the ideas at the heart of the movie — love, sacrifice, cherishing most that which is most valuable — are the ones at the center of the Christian worldview. Nor is it necessary to believe that the makers of the film intended this consciously. As C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, and Joseph Campbell all recognized in their different ways, the truths at the center of myth come from deep in the human soul. (What makes Christianity different is the claim that the truth expressed in various myths was once actually enacted by God, incarnationally, on the stage of human history.) The story told in Titanic is a secular representation of some of the same truths.
Major’s style is rather gushier than I would prefer, but her account develops an impressive force as it proceeds. Her brief book offers not just a fertile way to understand a particular film, but a moving approach to some of life’s most important questions. She is a mother of 12, so anything that impresses her as a source of strength probably has something going for it.