For Reel

A Night to Remember (1958)
July 30, 2016, 5:32 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Roy Ward Baker
5 Stars
A Night to RememberTo dramatize a real-life disaster poses enormous ethical risks—doing justice to the lives lost comes at odds with the sensationalizing of the details, which could transform a genuine tragedy into a Hollywood-ready disaster film. James Cameron’s approach to Titanic drifted far into sentimentality and romance, serving as both a nostalgic look at early 20th century fashions and social mores and hamfisting what was intended to be an enduring love story. The special effects spectacle remains that film’s greatest achievement, even if one remains at a distance from the tragedy as they gawk at passengers plummeting to their death in the madness. A Night to Remember, however, takes a simple shot of a serving tray rolling down a dining hall and gives it an unforgettable sense of immediacy—it is an image which represents the film’s greatest ironies, evoking the carefree calm of upper class grandeur falling apart at the seems (many have wished to remark on the Titanic disaster as a metaphor for a world approaching World War I, which the film certainly provides fruitful argument for). And, if the film lacks a strong central protagonist, director Roy Ward Baker sketches dozens of samples of people onboard the ship, finding heroism with simple gestures and reaction shots. While many of the entitled passengers aboard the ship are wrought as being in denial and even annoyed at the situation, A Night to Remember‘s greatest heroes are those who act similarly oblivious despite their understanding of exactly what awaits.

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