Frodo and Gandalf and Gollum: A Study in eye contact

Here is a shot-by-shot breakdown of this scene for your reference.


squire: Let’s pick up at shot 28. The company is resting, and Gandalf is thinking, but Frodo notices something. He turns to see a creature leaping from tomb to tomb, down in the cemetery that the company has just come from.

Frodo goes to Gandalf, who tells him the creature is Gollum, who has been following them through Moria. We see Gollum’s hands and eyes.

squire: There is commentary both by Dan Hennah, Richard Taylor and Tania Rodgers from Design, and Randy Cook and Jim Rygiel from Production, on the quality of the computer-generated Gollum’s eyes here. Evidently it was quite difficult to get them to reflect light the way a cat’s does in the dark.

squire: A. What do you think of this Gollum?

Darkstone: Well Inhuman and monstrous. Lovecraftian. Very nice.

weaver: answers to some of your questions...This Gollum is fine for this shot, but he seems less like a corrupted hobbit and more like an entirely different kind of being. I think a less easy to relate to version of Gollum would have been interesting in the films -- he'd be less of a being that mirrors Frodo, and more of a force to contend with if that makes sense.

squire: We never see him again!

Darkstone: Well, there’s the scene on the Anduin, but you’re right, we really don’t see him there, just the log.

squire: By the time of The Two Towers, Andy Serkis had arrived, and Gollum was reconceived to match Serkis’ concept, appearance, and performance.

Why do we never see the “reflective” Gollum eyes in The Two Towers and The Return of the King?

Darkstone: They’re inhuman and monstrous.  Hard to develop sympathy for that kind of chthonic character.  Jackson is going in an entirely different direction now.  Now they’re mirrors of Elijah Wood’s big blue eyes.  Astonishing!  An extremely inspired decision!!

weaver: As far as the "reflecting" eyes go, it works here because it helps us to see a bit more of Gollum in the dark. They were pretty consistent in TTT and ROTK in showing Smeagol with the pupils of his eyes dilated (wider) and in contracting them for Gollum, which helped to differentiate the two sides of him. That was a technique they could use more frequently than the reflective idea, perhaps. I think the reflective mode works in the books because so much of the Mordor trek is at night or in the dark -- the films couldn't keep us "in the dark" the whole time, and it also sounds like it would also be a pretty difficult technique to sustain consistently.

Gandalf reflects on Gollum’s lust for the Ring, calling him Smeagol. This line was added for the extended edition. Editor John Gilbert and Peter Jackson both say it was added entirely to give some better background to scenes in The Two Towers.

squire: B. Why is it important that Frodo know who Smeagol is, in The Two Towers?

Darkstone: Because “What did you call me?” is one of the most powerful, chilling, and heartbreaking lines in the entire trilogy.

weaver: Like Darkstone, I find the moment when Frodo calls Smeagol by name to be very powerful -- it marks the moment when Frodo is able to reach Gollum on a very deep level, and to stir up the part of him that for awhile is drawn back toward the light.

squire: Why add Gandalf’s line about Smeagol back into the EE?

Darkstone: The standard reason for the EEs in general:  Because more is better.

weaver: I think, in some ways, it's more effective to "not" have Gollum's "true" name be given away until then. It makes this a more significant moment, of "naming." I also don't think it's problematic that Frodo just comes up with the name in TTT -- Frodo explains that Gandalf told him that Gollum was once a hobbit, it's not too much of a stretch to think that he also told him what he used to be called. We also know from FOTR that Frodo knew about Bilbo finding the ring in Gollum's cave, so he's not "ignorant" of Gollum and his back story. Finally, I think adding the Smeagol line in the scene we are discussing messes with the flow of the dialogue -- the whole scene focuses on "moral" messages, and this bit of character info just doesn't fit with it.

Merryk: Naming Smeagol I agree that there is no need to weigh this scene down with factoids. It is okay to trust that the audience can pick up on the fact that we didn't hear everything Frodo and Gandalf ever said to each other. Not having all the dots connected in advance, makes Frodo's feat of recognizing Gollum's alter-ego in TTT that much more impressive too.

squire: Why cut it in the first place?

Darkstone: Snip one line here, a bit of a scene there, and pretty soon you’re able to meet New Line’s requirement of a movie under 3 hours.  If it’s over three hours then the suits at New Line have the right to cut it however they like and nobody wants that.

well he's back: -Fine to cut the Smeagol line; scene flows better without it. (I agree - That "What did you call me" line is a stunner.)
All I have time for!

squire: Is the fact that this Extended DVD Edition came out just a month or two before the second movie really the best motivation for changing the first movie, when both will be available for centuries to come, presumably?

Darkstone: Hmmmm….  Well, I guess so.

squire: "One of the most powerful, chilling, and heartbreaking lines in the entire trilogy" What's interesting about your comments is that you obviously see the Frodo-Gollum relationship as being, in some ways, the "heart" of, not the Fellowship movie, but the film trilogy as a whole. I guess my question was to what degree the filmmakers felt the same way, and to what degree were they thinking of the whole trilogy when making FotR.

I agree that the "what did you call me?" line in TTT is the only point of having Gandalf tell us Smeagol's name in FotR. The editor and the director say they put the line back in the EE, at least partly, because TTT was about to enter the viewers' consciousness, and this would tie the two films together a little more. (I still wonder where Frodo got the information that Gollum was once a hobbit)

It's one thing to repeat the truism that the movie has to be cut somewhere to make the three-hour limit. It's another to try to analyze the cuts that were made, and the restorations made in the EE, as functions of the priorities of the filmmaker.

"More is NOT always better" would be a better motto for almost any work of art, including the Cave Troll fight and the tilting stairs sequence. If we see Gollum/Smeagol as one of the key elements of the trilogy of which FotR is a part (as you seem to), we can certainly suggest that Jackson was misguided to omit this bit from FotR with the casual justification that "we didn't need it" then.

It's likely that Jackson was hedging his bets while editing FotR, knowing that if it flopped, the second two films would see very limited release. So "we didn't need it", as he puts it, means not that he didn't need it to tell the most compelling story, but he didn't need it to sell FotR to an unknown audience.

It's also likely that the decision was made not to make Gollum a visible character in Fellowship, so the CG development was delayed
a year, and he was minimized in the script; but it may have been the other way around. We know Gollum was causing the effects department endless headaches, and the early FotR script may have had him more visible, more of a character, to build up to TTT, until they realized he just wouldn't be ready in time.

The point of all this, and of so much analysis of these films (and most films), is that we just don't know how much of the film or the trilogy was thought through as a whole, and how much of it was the result of real-time production happenstances.

Mortae: I completely agree I would be ignorant not to think this work, the trilogy, was a fully well thought out planned production from the beginning.  Still I truly believe some of the more potent arguments we find ourselves in are less concerning the subjects and more about your "Happenstance".  With the overall quality of these films you know the love and attention was plentiful and all characters well thought out, still stuff happens, what we are left with may just be out of their control to clarify.  They won't say that in the commentaries.  FIlms seem to take a life of their own and the shorter the actual filming takes the better to keep things in control.  This experience was a over a year and a half just for the principal filming.

Darkstone: Well ...the entire saga of how Jackson's Gollum came to be is quite fascinating. Jackson says he knew the success of TTT and ROTK would depend on how real Gollum was. Everybody was pretty much panicking over developing the character, especially when Jackson decided to pull the old cgi model and introduce Serkis' model. New Line felt Serkis was too hard for audiences to understand, felt the character itself was too unsympathetic, and strongly encouraged Jackson to limit Gollum's part if not eliminate it entirely. And of course everyone was freaking out that the character was still being rendered by cgi almost up until the last moment of TTT's release.

So maybe what you say has merit. But I still prefer to think it was cut out simply because it wasn't necessary for the film. Does the FOTR audience need to know Gollum's real name is Smeagol? Of course not! Does the TTT audience need to know it. Well, yes, but like you pointed out they're very unlike to remember one mention of a name from over one year before. So out it goes with all the other unnecessary names, like, say Imladris. That's one thing the scriptwriters pointed out. They felt throwing too many names at the audience would start glazing over their eyes. And would be a waste of time.

Do I think the Frodo/Gollum relationship is the heart of the film? Not really. Frodo is the heart, and it's his relationships with Sam, Gandalf, Aragorn, and Gollum/Smeagol that are its blood. Put another way, Frodo is the center. Sam is a mirror. Aragorn is a mirror. Even Faramir is a mirror. Gandalf is a funhouse mirror. Smeagol is a mirror cracked. Gollum is a mirror cracked-er.

Sauron is a mirror cracked-est. But yes, the first time I heard "What did you call me?" it hit me like a sledgehammer. It absolutely floored me, like few movie lines ever have.

Elf_Maven: Your opinion? I am one who wishes that they had followed the conventional idea of putting the Smeagol flashback into TTT when Frodo reminds Gollum of his original name and identity. At least for non-readers I think it would have helped immensely to understand what Gollum was all about.

I don't know what they would have found for a dramatic beginning of ROTK, but I'd rather the scene had been added there, as they had first planned. What do you, who were so struck by that line in TTT, think?

Darkstone: Well Personally I have a distaste for flashbacks, and feel they tend to bring a story to a halt. So placing The Finding of the Ring in the middle of Frodo & Sam's journey through the Emyn Muil seems a bit unwise. As an opening to ROTK, however, it seems to work well in that it is an unexpected opening, it pushes Gollum/Smeagol from the sympathetic character of TTT to the murderous villain of ROTK, and it mirrors the difficulties and dangers the friendship of Sam and Frodo is going to have to face in the coming scenes.

 The scene is a nice one, but really seems hard to put anywhere without messing up the flow of the film.

Elf_Maven: Thanks for answering that. I don't know, the journey through the Emyn Muil was kind of "going nowhere" anyway. To me it seems it might have added interest. Nevertheless, I think you're right about what is accomplished by the placement at the beginning of ROTK.

stanne: on the theme of unnecessary names The use of Elessar always suprised me as it was never explained to non-book readers, but no-one seems to have remarked upon it.


Frodo: "It's a pity Bilbo didn't kill him when he had the chance!"

squire: Next comes an excellent scene between Frodo and Gandalf. There are basically two parts to the conversation:
1. Frodo says he wishes Bilbo had killed Gollum. Gandalf reprimands him.
2. Frodo says he wishes the Ring had not come to him. Gandalf reassures him.

Writer Fran Walsh comments about this double scene: “There are two great messages that come through in this scene. The first one is: ‘Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement’… which is Tolkien’s humanitarianism, really. It’s the spirit of the book. It’s forgiveness, and through forgiveness is redemption, and in that sense it’s quite a Christian…notion.

“And the other great message in this scene is: ‘All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.’ Well it… well that’s about free will, which again, plays directly to the powerful things that underlie the story, which really informed Tolkien’s, you know, view of life. His Catholic faith.”

squire: C. Can you explain what the heck Walsh is talking about?

Darkstone: Probably not.

squire: Has she correctly summarized the point of these exchanges between Gandalf and Frodo?

Darkstone: I don’t think so.  Lots of people take Gandalf’s “Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment” as simply “Do not deal out death in judgment”.  But people are judged and killed in both book and movie.  It’s just the Wise don’t jump to conclusions.  They take the time to consider all the facts and circumstances.  *Then* they deal out death in judgment.

As for “All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you”, that sounds more Taoist to me.  Or the old German proverb:  “Wer die Wahl hat, hat die Qual”:  “He who has a choice has torment.”  Dunno if Tolkien was a Taoist, but I know he studied German.

weaver: Well, I think we need to remember the format for these commentaries -- the people quoted are basically just sharing the thoughts that come to mind as they watch the films. Fran Walsh could probably have said it a lot better in a prepared speech. To me it's enough to know that the writers recognized the importance of the message about mercy in LOTR, and made sure to include it at a very effective and memorable moment in the films.

Elf Princess of Lorien: Popping by for a few quick thoughts on a fabulous discussion, squire.

First, Walsh is talking about her interpretation of the scene. After all, we ALL have different interpretations on topics varying "who is the hero of LOTR" to "what theme do you most identify with." No one is wrong in our interpretation, but it is our interpretation only. I do see her side of this interpretation, though, even though the first one is a bit more of a stretch for me than the second one.

well he's back: My two cents Great discussion by the way - Random answers with little time:
-I liked Fran Walsh's explanation. One could quibble, but I thought she did well.

squire: Do you think the movie audience perceived Gandalf’s words as a Christian or even Catholic message?

Darkstone: Probably saw it more as your standard run-of-the-mill humanistic egalitarianism boilerplate.  Though some might see Tory Tolkien’s anti-Socialist Monarchist philosophy coming through.

drogo_drogo: A note on "All we have to do..." Walsh is missing the boat a little in her take on Tolkien's passage when Gandalf says: "'So do I, said Gandalf, 'and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given, us." We must remember that a major thematic strain in Tolkien is that of duty, doing that which is right even though it may be the worst thing to do. Walsh's empahsis on "free will" in this is a not completely far from the mark, but yet I sense that she doesn't quite see things the way Tolkien did. The film posits characters who are more modern, individualistic figures than Tolkien's: we've talked at length about how his Aragorn is reluctant whereas Tolkien's never doubts that it is his duty to act when the time is right, and of course Faramir has spilled more terabits of data than any other figure on this board because the film injected temptation. These two characters are cut from the same cloth in Tolkien because they know what they ought to do, a divine categorical imperative, and never waiver from that. Frodo too in the book is one who best of all the hobbits understands that he is acting because it is what he ought to do, even though he thinks all is utterly lost. To that end, I think the way the film slightly alters the context of the passage along similiar lines, making it more of a choice for Frodo.

 I'll note that Tom Shippey mentioned in a talk I heard that there is an interesting shift in the film from "we" in Tolkien -- which he said allegory or not is something no Briton that Post-War era would fail to understand as a collective call to duty -- to "you" -- a more "me-generation" phrasing in which it's what I want to do or what you want to do. That really helps me to put the commentary of the the writers her into a framework that fits in with the overall changes that they made in the film.

 More responses later, I'm trying to catch up with this excellent discussion, squire.

Aerin: The beauty of Tolkien's story is that the themes hold true regardless of one's religious beliefs or lack thereof. Gandalf's wisdom here is a perfect example -- this is not a specifically Christian or Catholic philosophy, and the audience indeed should not have been encouraged to perceive it as such.

For me, this conversation between Gandalf and Frodo is the heart of the entire movie trilogy -- it is the single most important scene.

linkinparkelf: "we" versus "you" If I recall correctly Gandalf does use the word "we" in this scene. It is only later on the banks of the Anduin when Frodo is recalling his words that it changes to "you". I don't think it's a generational thing so much as a way of emphasizing that Frodo is having to make a decison here. It goes from a generalization to a personal push, so to speak.

weaver: As far as the religious context, it's good to hear that the writers recognized that Tolkien's faith was important to him, and I think "turning the other cheek" and mercy are things people associate with Christianity, even if that's not their own faith.

Elf Princess of Lorien: I doubt some audiences thought of what Walsh was talking about, but there are others (like us) who did think about it.

well he's back: And though Tolkien is writing from a Catholic point of view, he made them in a way that has had universal appeal, without diluting their potency.


squire: Boyen says this scene is the heart of the movie.

D. Do you agree?

Darkstone: Well, maybe more the novel.  Aragorn has to decide what to do with the time that is given to him before he becomes king.  So he wanders around, serves Thengel and Ecthelion, woos an elf princess, guards the Shire, and hangs around in bars with the word “Prancing” in their name.  The five Wizards have to decide what to do with the time that is given to them.  So one settles down and devotes his time to the birds and bees, another settles down and devotes his time to trying to duplicate The One Ring, two others decide to head off to the fleshpots of the exotic East and are never heard from again, and the fifth decides to wander about dispensing unasked for advice to all and sundry, nudging people into doing things against their better judgement, and occasionally hanging around in a land full of short people where he can always win at basketball.  People have to make lots of choices in LOTR and usually don’t have too much time to make them in.

weaver: Certainly, these messages are some of the strongest in the story, and all of the lines in this part of the scene are in both the books and films, though which get reinforced later differs a bit. The "all you have to decide" message gets repeated at the end of FOTR in the films, and the bit about mercy gets repeated, in italics, by Tolkien right after the ring is destroyed in the books. Both are important, but it is interesting to me to see which one Tolkien chose to reinforce, and which one these film makers chose to reinforce. Admittedly, the "choice" line is a better one to bring back as a coda at the end of FOTR, when you've got Frodo standing on the riverbank making his decision, but we don't get a verbal reinforcement of the pity and mercy line in the ROTK film after Gollum's demise. I do think it we see Frodo extend mercy to Gollum -- especially in the scene where Frodo ceases to choke Gollum (which eerily mirrors Smeagol choking Deagol). But the reason that Frodo chooses "not" to kill, is tied more to having to destroy the ring "for both their sakes", and a recognition that the ring is to blame for Gollum's actions, not Gollum himself.

Merryk: Let me add my admiration for your synopsis of the way the two subjects Gandalf raises here (mercy and free will/duty) are so important to the way the story plays out. Too bad they only used "mercy" as a segue.

FarFromHome: Free will/duty is covered at the end of TTT, when Frodo wants to give up, and Sam's speech makes him see that they have to go on. I know that movie-Sam's philosophy doesn't match up to the Professor's, but ultimately it comes to the same thing - if good is to prevail, it's the duty of good people to fight for it.

And again, free will/duty is covered in Frodo's "I have to destroy it for both our sakes." As before, Tolkien's very straightforward take on duty is given a more humanistic and personalized expression, but it's still Frodo going on, refusing to turn back, out of his sense of duty. And his taking of Galadriel's outstretched hand surely symbolizes his free acceptance of his duty to go on, wordlessly but as effectively as anything Tolkien wrote.

As weaver says, "choice" is stressed more in the movies - both in the way Frodo extends his mercy to Smeagol, and in the way he understands his duty. But the roles of both mercy and duty play out fully in the movie story too, I believe.

Merryk: But doesn't film-FotR's use of the Gandalf-flashback elegantly clarify Frodo's thinking? As you know, there is no such cinematic device linking the hobbit's "merciful" actions in TTT and RotK to conscientiously made choices. That leaves the viewer with a lot of unanswered why/how questions.

I can't agree that there is *no* fundamental difference in the film writer's "for both our sakes," or "good... worth fighting for" lines and Tolkien's concepts. In the film, the basic plot requires forward motion. But merely observing said motion is not particulary illuminating. Re-imagining Tolkien's motivations is a big deal and needs to be done very thoughtfully.

After all, it's not really *what* you do in Middle Earth... it's how and why you go about doing it. I'm afraid that (for me) injecting Frodo's self-interest and Sam's delusions of grandeur to the tale seriously compromises the resolution.

But I'm an old fuss pot ;-)

And (at the moment) an unusually overworked fuss pot - I have not had the time to take more than a peek in the Reading Room... and haven't had a chance to post in your thoughtful chapter discussion! And I actually have an idea for your Sam's song question...

Elf Princess of Lorien: Hard to say. It comes so early, I don't know if you can say that. But is this scene representative of the theme of the movie? Well, I could say yes to that one. Gandalf warns Frodo to be able to forgive, and see the redeeming qualities in another, and yes, that life is what you do with it.

In turn, Gandalf and Pippin confront that theme with Denethor. Frodo continuously remembers Gandalf's words regarding Gollum, and forgives him and sees his worth. Aragorn acts on these words in his dealings with Boromir, as does Gimli and Legolas with each other. Sam, likewise, has to chose to forgive Frodo in ROTK for sending him away and the other lapses in friendship he has committed. Frodo even has to deal with the deciding "what to do with the time" that is given to him when Gandalf falls in Moria. He has to decide to continue along with this quest, even though he may rather mourn his friend, or go back home.

well he's back: -Yes, the scene is the heart of the 3 movies, to me.

Merryk: And yes, of course this conversation is the heart and soul of the film.  At the time, the age old question of "Why me?" had just taken on an almost crushing relevance in real life as well.

squire: Any other candidates in Fellowship for the “heart of the movie”?

Darkstone: I’d say Lothlorien is the heart of FOTR with the book, but with the movie I think it’s the Shire.

Elf Princess of Lorien: I tend to think that perhaps Boromir's death may be the heart of the movie, in some ways. It puts Gandalf's words into action.

 As for another scene that could be at the heart of the movie: Friendship is one of the main themes of LOTR to me, so I could easily say that Sam going after Frodo and saying that he won't go without Sam is at the heart of the movie, as well.

 It is worth noting that comment regarding what to do with your life is one of the most frequently quoted lines from LOTR, so obviously this is a theme that resonates deeply with people, and something that does seem to be at the heart of this trilogy.


squire: To punctuate the two halves of the scene, Gollum withdraws and disappears after Gandalf says he may still have some part to play.

E. Why does Gollum not appear one last time in the finale of FotR to establish the role he’ll play in The Two Towers?

Darkstone: They’re trying to end the movie on an upbeat note.  The appearance of Gollum would be a downer.  Just like he is in the ending of TTT.

squire: Is this appearance and the one in the Prologue enough for the audience of the second film to remember who he is when he appears on that moonlit cliff?

Darkstone: Well, if they can’t remember Gollum a year later I doubt the extra hour is going to make much difference.

weaver: non-book reader husband said the line about Gollum having "a part to play" was a pretty strong hint that he'd show up again in the story, and so he was not surprised when he did. He never wondered where the heck Gollum was between Moria and TTT, really.

Gandalf: "There are other forces at work in this world,..."

Boyen: “This is the one place where we felt we could stop, and the key thing about this is that what Gandalf’s saying to Frodo is so utterly important, because this is where you’re getting a sense that he knows that he is not going to be around for this boy…not going to be around to help him.”

Concept Designer John Howe: “And there is this slow apprenticeship of Frodo Baggins as he learns things that are beyond what a hobbit need ever know. His slow introduction in to the wild and dangerous world – It’s a coming of age, which is very moving in a film like this.”

squire: F. Do you agree that Frodo is “a boy”, ...

Darkstone: In the book, no.  In the movie, yes.

well he's back: -Yes, Frodo is a "boy" is some senses. All the great hero tales seem to have an innocent who goes through trials and learns and grows. It's the classic hero's journey, given a unique spin by our dear Prof.

squire: ...that he is “coming of age” as he hears what Gandalf has to tell him?

Darkstone: Well, he *is* coming up on his loss of innocence at the East-gate.

weaver: Hmm...I think the writers, esp. Fran Walsh, were heavily influenced by their personal encounter with the death of a "young boy" (Cameron Duncan) as they made these films -- some of their sense of Frodo, as a result, seems to be partly a projection of the emotions surrounding this relationship.

Even without this personal aspect to it, it's pretty clear in the films that Gandalf and Frodo have an old/young relationship -- Frodo "is" a boy, and Gandalf "is" not going to be there for him. Though the fact that this is part of why Gandalf is giving him these messages here only really hits home later, in hindsight, after Gandalf falls. When you realize later that this is Gandalf's last advice to Frodo, the scene takes on even more poignancy.

Elf Princess of Lorien: Just for kicks, I"ll go onto F and G. Frodo has a certain childlike innocence to him until this scene, or perhaps until Gandalf's fall. Moria begins a sequence that does shatter this illusion of 'boyhood' that Frodo had before, and yes, is a coming of age moment for him. He probably hasn't thought past his own thoughts about the Ring, Sauron, and everything else until this moment. It's always a coming of age moment when we realize things that we'd never really considered before. That moment when you realize that you are just a tiny part of this vast world, and that there are things that happen that you have to deal with, and that they affect others, too. This conversation with Gandalf continues to chip away at Frodo's childhood, and when Gandalf falls, and he realizes that no one can protect him now, and he must go on and finish what he began, he really grows up--the final evidence of this at the end of FOTR, when he takes off in the boat, alone, so that he doesn't have to involve the others in his dangerous mission. A truly grown up act.


squire: G. Did you get the sense that Gandalf knows he is about to die? I didn’t.

Darkstone: Death?  Nope.  But from past experience Gandalf knows he’s often called away at inopportune moments and can’t always be there to help the people he’s conned into going off on adventures.  So I think Boyens’ “he knows that he is not going to be around for this boy…not going to be around to help him” does make sense.  Gandalf doesn’t know he’s going to die, but he does know something’s going on.  He does hear occasional snippets of the Music of the Ainur, you know.  After all, that’s why he sent “the most unlikely person imaginable” off against Smaug!

Elf Princess of Lorien: Did Gandalf know he was going to die? I don't think so, from this scene. I do think he was sharing his wisdom of being an older person with a younger one.

squire: H. What part of Gandalf’s advice in these scenes does John Howe think a hobbit need never know?

Darkstone: I have no idea.  Hobbits don't seem likely out death in judgement either hastily or leisurely.  And obviously with seven meals a day plus the occasional snack they're very much aware of the importance of choices. 

I think maybe he's talking about knowledge of the outside world, which normally hobbits are neither eager nor curious about.

Elf Princess of Lorien: Howe most likely thinks that a hobbit never needs to be in a position to where he may have to "deal out death and judgment" like Frodo will have to. And there is also that most hobbits probably never have to think about what their contribution to the world at large will be, just their little corner of the garden. Either way, both comments really are an eye opener to a race that worries usually about pipeweed and ale.

squire: Do you like John Howe or Alan Lee better?

Darkstone: They’re both really cool dudes.  Love to sit down at a campfire with them and pass around a bottle of tequila and just talk.

Elf Princess of Lorien: Oh, and I for sure love Alan Lee the most. :)

well he's back: -Do I have to choose between John Howe & Alan Lee? Lee's art is lovely, but don't forget Howe gave us the interior of Bag End.


squire: Walsh comments on the use of distance and forced perspective to make Elijah Wood seem hobbit-sized compared to Ian McKellen. Note that the master shot is always from Gandalf (left foreground) to Frodo (right background); and that in close-up Frodo is always framed next to Gandalf’s hair in the foreground, his face never fills the screen by itself. Would a reverse shot have given Frodo more prominence? Was a reverse shot even possible, given the scale issues? (i.e. shooting with the hobbit actor further away than is apparent allows the trick of forcing the hobbit to appear smaller relative to the wizard. A reverse shot would have had to have McKellen practically in Wood’s lap to make Gandalf seem appropriately larger.)

squire: I. Do Frodo and Gandalf actually seem to be making eye contact as Walsh maintains?

Darkstone: Seems so to me.

stanne: eye contact I like the scene but the shot doesn't work quite right for me. It is too obvious that Elijah is further from the camera and Ian is so much closer.

Merryk: Oscar nominated performances I agree with stanne, that as good as the scene is, the eye lines just barely work.  In fact, I  wonder if Mr. Wood's reaction shots are a little weak (compared to his work in the "I'm not like you Bilbo" scene) because he simply physically unable to play off of the stronger actor? 


squire: Does the lighting help or hurt this trick cinematography?

Darkstone: A bit.  I think the shallow depth of field helps more.


Gandalf: "Can you give it to them, Frodo?"

Gandalf: "Do not be too eager..."

squire: J. Contrast the acting of McKellen and Wood in this extended scene.

Darkstone: McKellen is forceful and commanding.  Wood is tentative and fragile.

well he's back: -I thought the acting was great by both. They move me to tears, no mean feat. Here they both justify their casting, and deserve their rabid fans.

Merryk: Of course, the young actor has the more problematic part to play.  Nothing is resolved for Frodo when Gandalf stands up - he doesn't quite understand or believe what the wizard has just told him.

squire: Who does the camera say the scene is about: Frodo, or Gandalf?

Darkstone: Frodo.

weaver: To me it's more about Gandalf -- this is his final swan song, before he falls and dies. I think the way it was filmed was very credible in showing Frodo's innocence, Gandalf's wisdom, and in communicating all of the moral messages it contains.

Merryk: This moment is clearly all about Gandalf.

 squire: Who got the Oscar nomination,

Darkstone: McKellen.

squire: and why?

Darkstone: He’s English.



Gandalf then remembers which door to take.

squire: K. Is it something about the conversation that jogs Gandalf’s memory of the doors?

Darkstone: Absolutely not.  That’s why I love this bit.  It’s like when I forget something and I’m trying and trying really hard to remember it, but for the life of me I can’t.  Then I get distracted by someone or something.  Then since I’m no longer trying to remember suddenly it just pops into my head out of the blue. 

(Well, it’s an old person thing.  I’m sure all you young folk have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about.)

weaver: Yep. It's through the conversation with Frodo that Gandalf is able to finally decide which way to go. The advice he gives Frodo helps Gandalf as much as Frodo -- all he, Gandalf has to do here is pick a path, believe that there is more than he can see or judge properly going on, recognize that he is not responsible for doing any more than his "part", and to trust to the higher powers. Gandalf gives up on "knowledge" -- his memory of which way to go -- and makes his decision based on what "smells" right; an intuitive decision. In short, he turns to faith to get him past his doubts.

 What's interesting to me is that in the books, we get Gandalf shown as weakening the closer he gets to the confrontation with the Balrog (the moment when he puts the shutting spell on the door to delay it almost breaks him, I think). In the films, Gandalf grows in resolve from this moment on, so that he's fully prepared to face the Balrog and accept his fate.

Merryk: Do you really think book-Gandalf becomes weaker than movie-Gandalf? I'm not sure - although I do think it was absolutely necessary for the film audience to see that "acceptance of duty" is the source of Gandalf's real strength, it is pretty clear as they head for the movie-bridge that the wizard is running on empty.

weaver: My reasoning... Don't have the book handy, but my perception from the books was that until they got to Moria, Gandalf was pretty much infallible. Tolkien takes him down a few pegs from the start of this sequence, with the difficulty opening the door, not knowing which way to go, then the bit where he puts the spell on the door that "almost breaks him". I think this works in the book to make you think there's a chance he'll actually fall at the bridge -- that he's in real jeopardy.

For the films, I think we see Gandalf regain his faith, confidence and strength some after his conversation with Frodo. He's still alarmed at having to face the Balrog, but he doesn't seem "unready" to face him, to me, I guess.

I guess I see the book and film doing things a bit different here -- the books build "down" to Gandalf's fall, the movies build him back up first, so that the fall is more dramatic, on screen. In the film, you had to believe that Gandalf "could" defeat this thing. In the books you had to believe he "couldn't", if that makes sense.

Merryk: That's a neat little construct:

"In the film, you had to believe that Gandalf "could" defeat this thing. In the books you had to believe he "couldn't""

100% agreement that the book and film cover almost exactly the same ground in completely different ways - but (maybe just to be difficult) I'd say the movie is trying to get us ready for his fall, not so much as making us believe he will get through this confrontation, but just by making him feel essential to Frodo, to the quest - almost at the molecular level. The Ringbearer ain't the only one screaming "Nooo!" when the wizard goes down.

Darkstone: Oh, nice! *mods up*

squire: How does his expression at this moment tie in with his comment a moment later that he is merely following his nose?

Darkstone: Well, he is dispensing wisdom.  And if the last time he led a bunch of short people through caverns in the Misty Mountains is any guide, then at least one hobbit is going to go wandering off and get himself lost.  And telling them to sniff around for drafts of fresh air and follow their nose is actually pretty darn good advice.  And simple enough even for Pippin to understand.

FarFromHome: Just a quick thought on your last point:

"Following your nose" of course has another meaning, besides the one that Gandalf seems to mean (i.e. the reference to the bad air, which is straight from the book). It also means going straight on - not turning aside. Whatever is waiting for him below (and it's clear he knows it's a some terrible test), Gandalf is now ready to go on and face it, because he knows Frodo has heard the words he needed to hear.

"Always follow your nose" I see as one of those tiny gems that the scriptwriters added to Tolkien's own words. Its message is pure Tolkien - essentially the same as book-Sam's words about heroes having "lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't" - but it's delivered in this small, humorous remark, as Gandalf takes the first steps down towards his fate.

Linkinparkelf: Hum, but what if your nose curves to one side? You'd be going in circles.

Just kidding, very good point.

N.E. Brigand: "tiny gem" or "Toucan Sam" ? It's interesting that just one line of dialogue can engender two responses as different as yours and Janet Croft's (which squire references above).

FarFromHome: I hadn't noticed that comment! I'd glanced through the article but I couldn't make much of her sweeping criticisms with little apparent understanding of the movies to back them up. It's easy enough to find a deflating comparison for almost anything, including a lot of Tolkien's language, as we all know.

I like the "when in doubt, follow your nose" line. It may be a commonplace, but it's a commonplace used thoughtfully and actually rather subtly, if you take the time to listen properly to what's being said. Or that's how it comes across to me. Not having much experience with US TV, I've never heard of Toucan Sam. I wonder if Jackson et al. have?

Darkstone: One of those culture checks. For example, you hear the William Tell Overture. Do you go:
a. "Ahhh! Gioachino Rosinni!!"
b. "Hiyo Silver, away!!!"

N.E. Brigand: "Boring!" A few years ago, I heard Andrea Bocelli sing. A darn good concert, too, despite being presented in a sports arena. But at times he would rest and let the orchestra do a number on their own. They opened the second half of the evening with the William Tell overture which, though it concludes excitingly, begins with some lovely slow passages (including a very famous section, evocative of spring and often heard in old Warner Brothers cartoons). Beautifully done, but one (possibly drunk) gentleman in some very expensive seats wasn't interested, and yelled out "Boooring!" (The event staff either couldn't identify him, or decided to forbear. Unfortunately, later in the concert he expressed himself again: "Time to say goodbye!" A request for Bocelli's pop hit, perhaps, but shouted in the rudest of tones.)

stanne: doesn't it also mean trust to your instinct? Which is also a true JRR theme.

MerryK: I like the idea, as you might remember from an earlier discussion of ours, that for Gandalf is clearing his own mind here - and can go on with a light heart... and, coincidentally, is giving Frodo exactly the tools *he* still needs to finish the job.

But, about the "Junior Ranger Handbook: what to do when lost in dark places" follow-your-nose line, I regret, a little, that there was no follow-up in TTT. It might have been cool if Merry used Gandalf's advice to lead Pippin up out of the claustaphobic maze of Fangorn, up the little hill to Treebeard.

"Hug a tree" might have come in handy there as well.

FarFromHome: Well Merry does "follow his nose" in the "just keep going doggedly on" meaning of the phrase. But as it happens, in Fangorn, that's not enough - it takes Pippin's lateral thinking to make things work out.

Which means that Gandalf's advice wasn't right after all. Hmm...

Still, it got Merry to the Pelennor, so it wasn't totally bad advice! ;-)

(And in terms of this scene, I think Gandalf isn't really speaking to Merry at all - it's really about his own decision still, to go on down and meet his fate, and trust that the Quest can be completed without him if needs be.)




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