Note: There were so many caps for this scene I had to divide it into two parts. The first half of this post contains the introductory comments, the book scene, the film text and half the screencaps. The second half, Galadriel's Glade Pt. 4b, contains the rest of the screencaps and the poem jan-u-wine has written inspired by both sections. At the bottom of this half's screencaps is a link to the second part.
In my opinion, Galadriel’s big transformation scene ("In place of a dark lord, you will have a queen") does not do well by Tolkien, nor by the films.
In fact, every time I watch it I wince. Not just because of what it does to Tolkien, but because it reminds me embarrassingly of Disney cartoons. I saw a lot of them while our daughter was growing up, some of them many times. I can't watch Galadriel's transformation without thinking first and foremost of the climax of The Little Mermaid, when Ursula the Sea Witch becomes monstrously enlarged, Ariel gaping up in horror. Ursula swells and soars out of the sea to loom over the little heroine, the wind swirling around them, her voice artifically magnified and lowered in pitch until it booms over the scene like rolls of basso-profundo thunder. The same formula is used in the climactic confrontations in Aladdin and Hercules. (I'm sure there are more.) The prototype probably is the transformation of Maleficent the evil fairy into a huge dragon in the 1959 Sleeping Beauty, recently spoofed by Disney in Enchanted. I concede it was a great moment in film animation, but I don't think I should be thinking of Disney cartoons while watching The Lord of the Rings.
Not everyone is reminded of Disney movies—I'm thinking of popular references to "Nuclear Gladys", or, "when Galadriel goes nuclear"—but many fans think what PJ did is unsatisfactory. Even if they are not grieved by the way the character is distorted by her film treatment, they don't find PJ's Scary Galadriel effective even as cinema. I laughed out loud when I read fellow Tolkien-fan maeglian's recent comment, "I wish they'd found another way than the green floating toilet paper in the lightning storm to visualize Galadriel's temptation". Whatever the filmmakers were going for, surely it wasn't that.
If the scene works for me at all (and it does, barely), it is because of the acting of Elijah Wood. His face, as Frodo, is wonderful as he watches her, his hair streaming back like a figurehead's on the prow of a ship heading into a gale. I've only included a few caps of the precise moment: there's fear, dread, alarm, even grief—in succession and sometimes mixed together—but also awe. I don't know what they told Eljiah Wood he was supposed to be seeing when they filmed his side of the scene, but, from the narrative rightness of his response, I think he must have seen what Tolkien described: a Galadriel become, “tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful”.
It’s too bad for Cate Blanchet, so excellent when allowed to be, to have had her big moment spoiled by PJ’s love of horror movies and tinkering with special effects. She could have conveyed the transformation with just acting—no electrification, no basso-profundo voice. Shore's scoring and the *right* lighting effects could have done the rest. As it is, even Howard Shore’s brilliant efforts cannot lift Galadriel's transformation out of the realm of cheesy fantasy and schlock scary movies. Only Frodo's side of the scene transports the viewer into the Perilous Realm.
Book scene: The Mirror of Galadriel.
‘You are wise and fearless and fair, Lady Galadriel,’ said Frodo. ‘I will give you the One Ring, if you ask for it. It is too great a matter for me.’
Galadriel laughed with a sudden clear laugh. ‘Wise the Lady Galadriel may be,’ she said, ‘yet here she has met her match in courtesy. Gently are you revenged for my testing of your heart at our first meeting. You begin to see with a keen eye. I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired to ask what you offer. For many long years I had pondered what I might do, should the Great Ring come into my hands, and behold! it was brought within my grasp. The evil that was devised long ago works in many ways, whether Sauron himself stands or falls. Would not that have been a noble deed to set to the credit of the Ring, if I had taken it by force or fear from my guest?
‘And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!’
She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illumined her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
‘I pass the test,’ she said. ‘I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.’
They stood for a long while in silence. At length the Lady spoke again. ‘Let us return!’ she said. ‘In the morning you must depart, for now we have chosen, and the tides of fate are flowing.’
‘I would ask one thing before we go,’ said Frodo, ‘a thing which I often meant to ask Gandalf in Rivendell. I am permitted to wear the One Ring: why cannot I see all the others and know the thoughts of those that wear them?’
‘You have not tried,’ she said. ‘Only thrice have you set the Ring upon your finger since you knew what you possessed. Do not try! It would destroy you. Did not Gandalf tell you that the rings give power according to the measure of each possessor? Before you could use that power you would need to become far stronger, and to train your will to the domination of others. Yet even so, as Ring-bearer and as one that has borne it on finger and seen that which is hidden, your sight is grown keener. You have perceived my thought more clearly than many that are accounted wise. You saw the Eye of him that holds the Seven and the Nine. And did you not see and recognize the ring upon my finger? Did you see my ring?’ she asked turning again to Sam.
‘No, Lady,’ he answered. ‘To tell the truth, I wondered what you were talking about. I saw a star through your finger. But if you’ll pardon my speaking out, I think my master was right. I wish you’d take his Ring. You’d put things to rights. You’d stop them digging up the gaffer and turning him adrift. [Sam’s thoughts still dwelling on his vision] You’d make some folk pay for their dirty work.’
‘I would,’ she said. ‘That is how it would begin. But it would not stop with that, alas! We will not speak more of it. Let us go!’
Film scene:[Galadriel lowers her voice, speaking darkly.]
Galadriel: He will try to take the Ring. You know of whom I speak. One by one it will destroy them all.
[Frodo’s face fills with even greater concern. He answers her telepathically:]
Frodo: If you ask it of me, I will give you the One Ring.
[He lifts his hand and opens his palm, revealing the Ring.]
Galadriel: You offer it to me freely.
[Galadriel moves towards him as she speaks, her hand extended tremulously.]
Galadriel: I do not deny that my heart has greatly desired this….
[As she comes closer, continuing to speak, she becomes transformed into a darkly divinized version of herself, tall and terrible, surrounded by an aura of nearly blinding radiance.]
Galadriel: In place of a dark lord, you will have a queen. Not dark, but beautiful, and terrible as the dawn, treacherous as the Sea, stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me and despair!
[Frodo gazes at her with a mix of awe and fear, but he does not shrink back. As he looks on, Galadriel recovers herself.]
Galadriel’s Glade Pt. 4a ~ 'You offer it to me freely'.....
~*~ As you who looked at last week's Galadriel's Glade post know, Pt. 5 was the last entry in the ongoing Frodo screencapping project I've…
Galadriel’s Glade 5 (last part) ~ ‘Even the smallest person’, plus end of jan-u-wine's Lórien Suite.
~*~ Notes: Very long essay ahead, wrapping up the final part of my last Frodo screencap series. I don't plan to do any other large-scale…
~*~ Here is the second half of the post, which includes more film text with accompanying caps, and the 4th entry in jan-u-wine's Lórien…