Sirkian melodramas flourished in the 1950s but disappeared. How did Titanic briefly make them relevant again?
I have to admit, I have a soft spot in my heart for great melodrama. Movies like Magnificent obsession, rebel for no reason, and Imitation of life have always given me great insights into human existence and are reason enough to give a good scream.
But melodramas are tricky. It’s easy to single out the best, but over time the word “melodramatic” began to give off a peculiar patina. It was a way to describe movies and TV shows in a negative way. Melodramas were criticized for their lack of subtlety and fell by the wayside. They got written off as we got deeper into the cinema and began to prefer stories that were more down to earth and closer to reality. Great emotions and stage acting gave way to methodical performances and more naturalistic dialogues.
The melodramas of the past were practically lost in the chaos of other emerging genres and audiences … until James Cameronon Titanic Not only did melodrama regain relevance, it also took it to the top of the box office and also won awards season.
Check out this video from Nerdwriter1, and let’s talk after the jump.
How did Titanic Make melodrama relevant again?
When Titanic When she got into theaters, she wasn’t afraid to be brave in any way. The film was a big budget event, directed by James Cameron, and delivered a passionate love story amid insane tragedy.
Like the old melodramas, it focused on heightened emotions at the heart of the story. There’s a woman who wants to commit suicide instead of being married to a man she doesn’t love, her greedy mother, a vengeful socially upscale investor, a wrinkled but handsome street rat, and that’s all just in flashbacks. In the present, we have an elderly woman weaving a yarn and a precocious sea captain who interferes with every facet of the story.
There are other prominent beats like a love that you know can never work, tragic deaths, lots of yelling, and a chaste but still hot sex scene.
Titanic brought melodrama back to the foreground of society, and I don’t think it’s gone from there. The generation grew up on Titanic took the subgenre into books. Check out how YA works The fault in our stars. This is probably one of the most successful melodramas of all time, and it’s made into a film just as well.
We also saw it terrifying, with dusk to be the forbidden love melodrama with vampires.
And it wasn’t just kids’ stuff. I think Paul Thomas Anderson worked within the genre for the first few films of his career Boogie nights being a melodrama that focuses on pornography and magnolia a rousing melodrama that would have made Douglas Sirk proud.
Brokeback Mountain and Far from heaven are two modern melodramas that also scored points at the Academy Awards.
While the word “melodramatic” still has a bit of a shadowy effect, I think that the audience leaves more space to really feel with the characters. While I’m not sure if a simple Sirkian melodrama would do as well today, I think that adding elements and tropes to other genres leaves room for directors and writers to play with storytelling techniques.
And I think that has a lot to do with it Titanic allows us to love and feel again.
Let me know what you think in the comments.