I cannot look at this little sequence without experiencing a nearly fatal desire to pinch Frodo's bonny cheeks and crush him to my bosom. The face Frodo lifts to Gandalf is so young, so fresh, so plucky, so confident, so high-hearted, my old curmudgeonly heart just melts.
And if it affected me that way then, back when I first saw Fellowship, it affected me far more deeply and with greater complexity after I had seen the full trilogy.
After Return of the King, I would see that fresh face of FotR on my screen, but superimposed over it in my mind would be the images of that face to come: faces of terrible worry, of fury, of dread, of pain, suffering and despair. Finally there would be the still beautiful but wan face of resigned diminishment, the Frodo who inhabits the too-tidy rooms of Bag End.
"How do you go back to an old life...?" When I watch that scene now, in my mind I see the face of Frodo in these early screencaps and I weep.
More than any other early scene of Frodo -- not the "money shot," not the "cart smile." nor the faces of laughter during the party scenes -- this moment is the one that most exemplifies to me the light-hearted, hopeful young hobbit Frodo was before he went off on the Quest. The contrast shows most vividly what Frodo has lost. He gained a great deal from what he went through, too, but the look on this young face we never see again.
No, I take that back. There is the farewell smile at the Grey Havens. That smile had everything I see in these shots, but far more. In the shots I am posting below, Frodo is hopeful out of his own shining nature, but also out of his ignorance of what can and will befall him.
At the end of the film, he has lived and learned more of suffering and evil than any hobbit should or could. His last smile is all the more radiant to me because he could feel renewed hope in spite of having lost that innocence, in spite of what had happened to him.
~ Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring, full-screen edition of the theatrical release:
"I can cut across country easily enough!"
"My dear Frodo, hobbits really are amazing creatures! You can learn all that there is to know about their ways in a month and yet after a hundred years they can still surprise you."
Click HERE for table of Frodo and Elijah Wood Screencaps.