Here begins a new Frodo screencap series from scenes on the plain of Gorgoroth. This set, “Part One”, features caps from the seqence that appears in the EE of RotK.
Note: *Added 8/23/06 to this entry is jan-u-wine's very fine There is Light Which Does Not Fail. Written to the scene in which Sam sees the star, it expresses the second set of caps well.
I always thought the film *lacked* in the section between Cirith Ungol and Gollum’s attack on Mt. Doom. Sean Astin and Elijah Wood did superb jobs, but it was just too short. Reading the book, the sense is almost physical: the sheer length of the ordeal Sam and Frodo underwent, starved and parched, as they scrambled then trudged then crawled across the wasteland of Mordor. In the film, even with the EE additions, it all seems to go by very quickly, as if the they stumbled and crawled for a day or two rather than agonizing weeks.
Making these caps I had a much better sense of the book’s world. As I went through the scene frame by frame, it was as if I had recovered a reader’s pace. Looked at slowly, I had a much better sense of what Sam and Frodo endured, letting it the images proceed as if step by step, laboured breath after laboured breath.
The filmmakers did not see fit to include the famous scene in which Sam sees the star through a rent in Sauron’s gloom over Mordor in the theatrical release of RotK. Many of us book fans missed it. Peter Jackson restored it in the EE version, although it was moved to much later in the story, after they had thrown away their orc gear (rather than up in the Morgai before they were forced to march with the orcs).
In the film scene, Frodo and Sam are resting against a heap of rocks. Both look exhausted. Frodo is shivering, his eyes -- when they flicker open -- bleak with despair. Next to him, Sam looks grim. Then Sam looks up and sees the star, and speaks lines from the book. Frodo closes his eyes and sleeps a fitful sleep, his cheek against the rock.
The film scene does double duty. It allows Sam to speak the star line, but also gives a tiny taste of the physical closeness noted in the book elsewhere. Although Frodo’s head does not actually touch Sam, when the camera pans around for the close-up, it appears to be against Sam’s arm, so that physical closeness is effectively implied. There are moments of physical closeness portrayed in RotK; I just wondered why they were so circumspect here. On the slopes of Mt. Doom, Sam cradles Frodo’s head on his lap while Frodo listens to Sam ask him if he recalls the taste of strawberries. In the midst of the lava, facing death, Frodo hugs Sam in a prolonged, comforting embrace. They hug feelingly and at length at the end of the Grey Havens, and Frodo bestows a farewell kiss upon Sam's head. Maybe the Art Department just liked the way Frodo's face looked against that jagged rock.
The book depicts physical closeness, too, but in different scenes and not always the same way as the films. In the book, Sam is not even with Frodo when he sees the star, so there is no physicality there. When Frodo gives the “taste of strawberries"/"I'm naked in the dark” speech in the book, Sam and Frodo appear to be standing, having just cast off their Orc gear. But then Sam kisses Frodo’s hand. “Then let us be rid of it”, he says, gathering up the discarded gear (and his pans), throwing it all down a fissure before he cuts a length of rope to make Frodo a girdle to bind his Elven cloak about him. Frodo’s hand is never kissed or held in the films, in this scene or any other, except in Rivendell -- at Ian McKellen's urging. Perhaps they thought it looked too servile, keen as they seemed to minimize the master/servant dynamic between them.
In the book, Frodo’s head is cradled in Sam’s lap, but not during the “naked in the dark” scene. It happens in The Two Towers, on the Stairs, a scene not in the film at all, in which Frodo sleeps with his head in Sam’s lap.
There is no film scene of the two hobbits spooned up together, something Sam does for his master when Frodo is freezing, trying to sleep in Mordor. In the film of TTT, in the Emyn Muil, Frodo and Sam are shown sleeping near each other, but not touching, and not spooned. Neither is there any film scene that approximates the power and pathos of Sam tenderly cradling Frodo's beaten body in the tower of Cirith Ungol (naked or otherwise). Like the kissing of Frodo’s hand, this intimacy was something the films did not attempt to portray.
This brings me to hand-holding. The holding of hands seems an innocuous, innocent thing to me, almost child-like. All the incidents of book hand-holding were cut. Sometimes they were cut because their reason for being was no longer there. In Shelob's tunnel, Sam had already been sent home, so there would be no desperate reaching for each other’s hands as they went forward in the stinking, dreadful darkness. Other times, I don't know why the hand-holding was cut. I can only guess.
On that rock in the midst of the lava, the two film hobbits hugged and wept as they awaited their fate, but there was no hand-holding. Gandalf and the eagles made a stunning, unforgettable entrance as they swoop-floated down, but the two hobbits were lying apart from each other. In the book, Gwaihir looks down upon “two small dark figures, forlorn, hand in hand upon a little hill” I would have traded twenty film embraces to see the tiny figures hand in hand: a lone, last, perhaps unconscious binding together of loyalties in the face of the world’s ending, a last homely example of "keeping each other company" even to the end.
I suppose hand-holding is too against the grain for most modern folk, at least in this part of the world. Men can hug, even pat each other’s bottoms, but not hold hands. I thought it was an irreplaceably moving and powerful image, those two lost souls, hand in hand. It was an image as old and as powerful as that of Hansel and Gretel, two unwanted children left to die in a deep, dark, dangerous wood. It is an image of the secret, inner state of many of us, I suspect.
My favourite hand-holding moment in LotR happens right after Sam and Frodo have escaped the Tower and have scrambled away, hiding in the ravines of the Morgai. This moment really wouldn’t have had the same impact as it did in the book, even had it appeared in the film, because film Sam and Frodo were so familiar with each other. From the beginning, they were depicted more as "pals" than as master and servant, their arms around each other’s shoulders as they came home from the tavern. At Bilbo’s party, Frodo handles Sam -- literally -- like an old buddy. In the book, physical demonstrativeness does not characterize the early relationship of Frodo and Sam. Therefore, when physical displays do appear, they stand out.
In the book moment I so love, Frodo is listening to Sam’s tale....There the hobbits sat under the cover of the thorny bush, while the drear light of Mordor faded slowly into a deep and starless night; and Sam spoke into Frodo’s ear all that he could find words for of Gollum’s treacherous attack, the horror of Shelob, and his own adventures with the orcs. When he had finished, Frodo said nothing by took Sam’s hand and pressed it. At length he stirred.
That’s all. Frodo gets up and says they should be off. Up to that point, except for holding each other’s hands in the blackness of Shelob’s tunnel, it’s the only time Frodo is depicted as initiating a physically affectionate act towards Sam. Sam, as Frodo’s servant, has touched Frodo quite a lot; caring for him, helping him in physical difficulties, or saving his life. But Frodo never has touched Sam in a way that crosses the master/servant boundary line. Not until this moment.
It’s such a spare detail, that little hand-press, held in silence because there are no words. But it is, oh, so very beautiful to me. I never noticed it in my younger readings, eager to press on to Mt. Doom. But as a more mature reader, less in a hurry, I saw it as the companion image to the star Sam saw in the heavens. As the star is a little sign of hope in their despair, and beauty that evil cannot touch, so that hand-press is a sign of love forged in the midst of their dire situation, love which evil cannot touch, and beyond expression.
The screencaps below are from the EE sequence on the plains of Gorgoroth. The first set of images come right after the two have escaped from the party of orcs. Frodo has stumbled and fallen. Pulling off his helmet, he pants, “I can’t manage the Ring, Sam. It’s such a weight to carry. Such a weight.” (These lines come from the opening of the [utterly ravaging] book scene in which Frodo thinks Sam’s trying to take the Ring, which was partially re-inserted in the film’s tower scene.) As per usual in the films, Sam is the one to take the lead and verbalize their plan. “We’re going that way,” he says, pointing his sword at Mt. Doom (apparently down the block), “straight as we can. There’s no point carrying anything we’re not sure to need.”
I was terribly sorry Frodo had to be side-lined by Sam once again, and sorrier still that he didn’t get to utter his last cry of defiance, “I’ll be an orc no more!” before casting off the hated gear himself, Sam following suit. Still, it was nice to see some semblance of the scene back in.
Technical note: Because these frames were from a widescreen edition, it meant cropping each frame of its thick black bands, top and bottom, then re-sizing it larger. Other than that, I did the usual tweaking, brightening, increasing the contrast, and sharpening the focus of each cap.
~ Frodo stumbles, “It’s such a weight to carry….”
For the set of caps for the scene in which Sam sees the star, I am including an excerpt from the book's version of the scene, from "The Land of Shadow":
When Sam thought of water even his hopeful spirit quailed. Beyond the Morgai there was the dreadful plain of Gorgoroth to cross.
‘Now you go to sleep first, Mr. Frodo,’ he said. ‘It’s getting dark again. I reckon this day is nearly over.’
Frodo sighed and was asleep almost before the words were spoken. Sam struggled with his own weariness, and he took Frodo’s hand; and there he sat silent till deep night fell. Then at last, to keep himself awake, he crawled from the hiding-place and looked out. The land seemed full of creaking and cracking and sly noises, but there was no sound of voice or of foot. Far about the Ephel Dúath in the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.
They awake together, hand in hand. Sam was almost fresh, ready for another day; but Frodo sighed. His sleep had been uneasy, full of dreams of fire, and waking brought him no comfort. Still his sleep had not been without all healing virtue: he was stronger, more able to bear his burden one stage further.
~ Sam sees the star:
There is Light Which Does Not Fail
There is Light
tempered to fine radiance by trial,
stubborn and sure
at its source,
Light held apart,
free of Shadow,
from that very
to end it.
I see it,
Even at the very end
it is there,
shining like unsullied Eärendil,
(a joy amidst my sorrow)
like the Sun upon a vast
are the bearer
of the Light.
Tables of Links:
~ Gorgoroth, Pt. II ~ The Eye Bears Down, plus jan-u-wine's "Last Day".
~ Entries with jan-u-wine's poems
~ Frodo and Elijah screencaps Main Page.