From The Blog

LoTR Film Marathon Update #2

As Fellowship of the Ring began, Silmarillionaire Mike Therway (who spent a substantial portion of his time nobly assisting Heath) and I were noticing just how much difference watching the films on a big screen again makes. The quantity of detail imbued in the design is simply unparalleled. Simple things like the textures of fine to rough fabrics show up clearly, telling stories in their simply being, to arcane, hardly noticeable objects like the water pump that serves as Bilbo Baggins’s kitchen faucet. Questions were also raised about the feasibility of actually cutting/consuming a cake the size of what is shown at the Party—we concluded that it would require a two-person logging saw to cut, and ladles to eat.

Mike and I raised our red plastic drinking horns as a gesture of respect to the unfortunate absence of Tom Bombadil. It’s clear that he would have presented quite an intrusion into the film, but this actually reveals a notable difference between the tone and message of the books and films. As strange as Tom is in the books, he still somehow does not feel out of place there. There is an intrinsic animism that runs throughout the books, which is almost wholly unapparent in the films. Tom is the bodily incarnation of the very spirit of the place he inhabits—this is why he is described as simply being “as you have seen him” and as “Master”. He is the ruling genius loci of the Old Forest and the valley of the Withywindle, commanding the wills of all other spirits of that place, such as that of Old Man Willow, the Barrow-wights, and even Goldberry and the hobbits themselves. There is of course no question of Peter Jackson even attempting to get all that across in a character that is so enigmatic, and frankly, ridiculous, but the animism in Middle-earth doesn’t come through anywhere else, either. In perhaps one of the clearest examples in the book, the Company attempts to cross over the Redhorn Pass, and are continually assailed by violent weather. Boromir says to let those call it the wind who will, but that he believes that they are being maliciously attacked. Aragorn replies with, “I do call it the wind, but that does not make what you say untrue.” The Jackson films, on the other hand, attribute Caradhras’s malice entirely to Saruman’s far-reaching magical prowess.

Discussion in Bree took on a less metaphysical and more folkloristic bent as Frodo Baggins took on the name of Underhill. It is interesting to note that this was the one of the traditional names of the Celtic Otherworld—both the Welsh Annwn, the abyss of spirit beneath the material world, and the Irish Tír na nÓg, the Land of the Ever Young far in the West—essentially the equivalent of Valinor. Both places are the dwelling places of the wise immortals, the sídhe or the Tuatha De Danaan—for all intents and purposes, elves. It is worth noting that most of the greatest elvish kingdoms are located underground—from Thranduil’s realm in Mirkwood to the ancient cities of Menegroth and Nargothrond. Though hobbits are consistently described as having “little or no magic about them”, the two most consistently associated with dwelling in holes in hills are also the two who take the name Underhill—Frodo, and Bilbo (who identifies himself to the dragon Smaug as having traveled “Over Hill and Under Hill”)—and also the two who travel themselves to Valinor.

I have always thought it an enormous missed opportunity that the Flight to the Ford is not shown more from Frodo’s perspective. It would make for excellent cinematography. Even while maintaining Arwen as the primary power of resistance against the Nazgûl, simply showing that the lines of perception between the physical world and the Other Side are beginning to blur for Frodo, shifting between the black robed Riders and the grey haggard kings, and showing the four hobbits and Strider as dim shadows before his eyes, while Glorfindel Arwen shines as a burning flame. PJ hints at this, when Arwen first appears in a blaze of light (and in different clothing than her riding gear), but nothing is made of it and no other elf ever appears in “glorified form” again.

Unless you count Galadriel’s test. But I hardly think you can. This is, I think, one of the strangest misinterpretations of the text in Fellowship. Honestly, when Galadriel raises her hands and a star seems to shine through them, that’s simply her shunning Sauron’s penetrating gaze. As for her being nearly overcome on the spot, trembling, and turning into a blue Elvish version of Sauron herself, that just seems off base. I hardly think that it’s comparable to her laughing and saying “Gently you are avenged for my testing of your heart at our first meeting.” They both offered each other what the most selfish parts of their hearts desired—and both passed with flying colours. Galadriel did not scrape by with a low C. This, however, is representative of another consistent change perpetuated throughout the films—the corrupting effects of the Ring are magnified terrifically, or at least made much more explicit. In the later films therefore we see such sea-green characters as Faramir fall to its influence, and Frodo begins to lose his mind to it about halfway through The Two Towers.

Second breakfast—complete with sausages and nice, crispy bacon!—took place during the intermission between film discs, followed by a discussion on the books and films led by Professor Olsen. The film then continued without interruption—again, unless you count confrontation between Boromir and Frodo, during which the sound cut out entirely. The audience did not seem to mind, however; they turned the entire scene into an hysterical, snarky, and not entirely appropriate adlib, mainly revolving around some sort of romantic relationship between the Ringbearer and Boromir. I’m sure the filmmakers would have approved entirely, if not Tolkien himself.

– Scott /|
Guest Contributor