Tuesday, 17 August 2010

“The World is Changing…”

It’s a strange thing, but often when I hear the name The Lord of the Rings the first image that comes to mind is that of Cate Blanchett’s Galadriel. When we consider that her time in the epic is merely fractional I wonder why. I hate to think it’s my nepotism but perhaps it’s the simple fact that her ethereal voice is what introduces us to the piece. I often think of Cate as a voice actress (her brilliant acting often depends on how well she manages to alter her voice). So often I tie the goodness of her performance to the way she’s able to use her voice (liltingly, powerfully, coquettishly) and it’s important that her soothing voice leads us into the turbulent tale. To consider all that we perceive in a simple glance from Galadriel is testament to what Jackson is doing. The Lord of the Rings is BIG, but it’s not just about EXPOSITION. From the cantankerous farmer who appears for a bit to the protagonists of our tale, Jackson is intent on creating real people. It’s an estimable intent, but it’s easier said than done. We don’t get back-story for them, sometimes we only get a few moments and for all it’s attempting at The Lord of the Rings is no character study.
So much of this first part occurs in the Shire’s brightness that when we do get wind of the darkness in the real world it’s terrifying. It’s where Ian McKellen’s Gandalf is most necessary and most effective. McKellen has such a talent for working with expressions (and so quickly, too). In the twinkling of an eye he moves from deceptively relaxed to frighteningly austere. The Oscar snub heard around the world? No. That was some lineup and I could readily change my mind from McKellen to Broadbent to Hawke (and still make way for Kingsley). It is something curious that McKellen, known for his inspired takes on Shakespeare reaches cult status (in my head, okay) for taking on the role of Tolkien’s mythical creation. It’s not the effect wears off, because The Towers and The Return of the King are still admittedly brilliant in their own way. It’s just that there’s something extraordinary about that very first one that makes me have such an affinity for The Fellowship of the Rings.
Darren of the very prolific M0vie Blog writes:
“I think this is the benchmark for fantasy in the twenty-first century, and perhaps the most popular example of an "unfilmable" movie transitioning to screen. It's still an accomplishment, even after the success and the Oscars and the massive cultural impact, but I can't imagine how impossible it must have seemed when it was originally imagined. And that's perhaps my favourite thing about it - without seeing the film itself, it's almost impossible to imagine the sheer scale of it all. It's also some of the most impressive CGI I have ever seen, Avatar included. However, what's truly astonishing is that Jackson finds the heart of this story, and can guide the viewer to it. Despite the scale and the fantasy, it's a strangely human story.”
I all but devoured the book before I was old enough to grasp the scope of it, and as far as adaptations go The Fellowship of the Rings like its successors is anything but infallible. It’s less a slight at Tolkien and more my leniency that makes me say that I like the changes that occur in the cinematic incarnation more than its literary counterpart. And if you know how much of a literary snob I can be, you’ll know that that’s a big thing. It’s more than the staunchness of adaptation (or lack thereof) though. Literature is language based and, at its height, cinema is a visual medium. I’d watch The Fellowship of the Rings (all 3 hours of it) on silent. It’s not just the CGI though, but I remember The Fellowship in fragments. I have the image of Gandalf’s magic fireworks or Galadriel’s mirror or Arwen’s incantation in the river. On the note of Arwen, it’s easily my favourite deviation from the novel. I’m only infinitesimally displeased that Tolkien’s actual story is so devoid of significant female vigour and I applaud Jackson for giving Arwen power without making it too “Amazonian”. Call it what you will, but Arwen’s journey with Frodo on horseback is one of my favourite scenes of the entire series though there’s not really that much going on. Perhaps it’s because that particular bit of the score is my favourite, or maybe it’s just the climax of the water on the Wraiths – I don’t know, whatever it is it’s proof of how brilliant Jackson and company are.
So many actors were swept to the forefront with the films, though few utilised their status as much as Viggo Mortensen who went on to become one of the decade’s strongest actors. On that note, Heather of the classy Movie Mobsters is with me on becoming a believer of Mortensen with the series.
“At first viewing of the Fellowship I had not read J.R.R. Tolkiens acclaimed novel. In fact I had such disdain for Viggo Mortensen and Liv Tyler that I refused to watch the film. Not only did I fall madly in love with Viggo and Liv, but I was shocked by how amazing the film and the story itself were. The screenplay adapted by Philippa Boyens, Fran Walsh and Peter Jackson himself, was done with such care for the original work of Tolkien and such great lengths were met to keep the integrity of the character’s and their journeys that this is without a doubt some of the best literature translated to the big screen ever. Every aspect of this story was done with the admiration of a true fan and the brilliance of an amazing filmmaker. The Fellowship of the Ring is what going to the movies is all about, and the best part is it’s only the beginning of the journey.”
Heather touches on what’s, possibly, the crux of the brilliance of the The Fellowship of the Rings and the entire trilogy in fact. Jackson is a fan of the franchise, he loves what he’s doing and ultimately no amount of skill, proficiency or flair can combat the love for one’s trade. All three films in the trilogy exude that, and none more than this first instalment. When this does get posted I’ll still be on my break…so in place of what should be a MEME post I’ll point out that The Lord of the Rings trilogy is my favourite series of related films….and this first instalments falls at #3 on my list of favourite films.
         
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2 comments:

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Fellowship *and* Gosford Park? Your top ten makes a convincing argument for the strength of 2001!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Yep, 2001 was kind of epic.