Dramatised documentary which follows the lives of the men who designed and built Titanic and her sister ship Olympic at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, showing the violence, ... See full summary »
Dramatised documentary which follows the lives of the men who designed and built Titanic and her sister ship Olympic at the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast, showing the violence, political drama and financial pressures that affected those who worked on her. Eight men, the Guarantee Group, were privileged to be chosen to travel on her maiden voyage. All of them were killed when she sank after striking an iceberg. Written by
The subtitle, "Birth of a Legend," is to be taken literally. The "legend" was not the sinking of the Titanic but the ship itself, and this is basically the story of how she was built -- not a documentary but a full television movie about some of the people involved in her design and construction. Of the fourteen thousand men who built the Titanic in Belfast, eight workers were aboard when she sailed. I took five years to build the Titanic and less than three hours to sink her.
If it were nothing more, it would be a superior study of class differences in the Ulster city of Belfast. The workers made barely enough to live on but were hungry for jobs. Those arriving even a few minutes late at the builders were locked out. Seven minutes a day were allotted to taking a leak, and the minutes were counted. They had forty-five minutes for lunch and worked six-hour weeks.
The workers were subject to social stratification as well. There was labor, and then there was management. Among the laborers, the top dogs were the riveters. Protestants and the one out of eight workers who were Catholics mostly got along amiably. Family ties were strong and diffused throughout both the wealthy at the top and the poor at the bottom.
The working conditions were dangerous and demanding, and the pay was low. Seventeen workers would die. No particular dramatic points are made of this. It's not a propaganda film, although it often contrasts the worries of the poor (Paying for a doctor when you're ill) with the preoccupations of the rich (getting into political office). The movie, like the story it tells, is filled with irony.
But if Abraham Maslow were alive he might get a kick out of the different sets of needs of the two classes. At the bottom, the workers are chiefly concerned with food, survival, and the like. At the top, the owners of the White Star Line are up to Maslow's second level -- achievement, self esteem, respect from others. They're determined to build not only a ship that is bigger and more luxurious than anything in the Cunard Line -- but THREE such ships. And if the best Cunard liners, like the Lusitania, had only three funnels, they'd add a strictly ornamental fourth. That'll show them.
You should understand that this is a tale of the technological, social, and political context in which the Titanic was built. You scarcely see her on the Atlantic and nobody drowns dramaturgically. There is no self sacrifice, no romance, no screaming whistles.
The performances are adequate, the writing insightful, and the CGIs are truly amazing for a simple television movie.
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