The premise of this film is very much to tie in the history of a family affected by the sinking of the Titanic in 1912 and the contrast with more modern social problems. Whilst this premise works on paper, the actual cross cutting came across in a way that was distracting and a little clumsy. The choice of shots, particularly in the modern sections feels odd. There are several close cuts of people’s knees which seem a little strange in the context of the film.
Whilst the subject matter from both the period drama and the modern monologues are candid and expressive, I can’t help but feel like they belong in two separate films. The modern monologues do depict the social challenges of modern society well and whilst I understand that they are there as a blunt message that society still disregards the poor and provides less than is needed to survive, the cross cutting seems out of place and often detracts from the tension built within the drama surrounding the Titanic tragedy.
The performances are good. It is unusual to see a drama based around the Titanic that is not physically based on the Titanic. I hadn’t realised the hardship faced by the families left behind after the sinking of the ship and this film provides an excellent learning opportunity for viewers to learn some of the lesser known stories about the Titanic survivors.
The opening scene is a pair of boots floating in the water, and this image of the boots runs all the way through the film and perfectly symbolise the loss of the father figure/ bread winner of the family. There is also in this image the symbolism of the widow having to metaphorically fill his shoes to provide for the family which is heartbreaking to watch.
The audio I find to be a little jarring. This is particularly true of the modern monologues . There is a high level of echo over the audio and voiceovers. I get the impression that this is a symbolic choice to represent the idea of being under water due to the fact that it keeps cross cutting with water based sequences. This reflects the fact that each of the subjects who has dialogue in this piece is metaphorically drowning in their own issues/ crisis / disability with little help from society. Whilst the idea of reflecting on the small amount of progress made within the last century is in itself a good idea, it doesn’t land quite as powerfully as it should. The best example of this is where we see our protagonist in the church, talking to the assessor, and the scene builds to a climax of grief and desperation only to cut to a modern day monologue and lose all of the gravitas that has been built within the scene .
The intention behind the film is a fundamentally good one and it does have some well shot sequences and poignant moments, but it would benefit from sticking with one or other of its storylines.
Emerge played at Mast Mayflower Studios on 25 June 2021. For more information about the film please see Theatre for Life’s website.