Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

New Art Travesties: Frodo in ‘Orlando’ ~ Six images, with a poem by jan-u-wine….

~ Detail from Manip #1

Note: The Frodo art manips below are made from screencaps from a bed scene between a man and a woman. Nothing actually shows, but the lovers are meant to appear naked under the sheets. I therefore issue warnings for mild erotic content, het, and the faces of actors being used in photomanipulations.


Months ago, I was pining publicly about the difficulty I was having finding suitable art images that would make good romantic/erotic Frodo Art Travesty manips. Paintings and sculptures depicting lovers could be found, but the tone would be wrong, the man too massive, or, more typically, his facial position was not right. As with many filmed love scenes, the man’s face was usually turned away or obscured, the female’s face featured, instead. Since Frodo would be the star of any manip I made, not his lover, this would not suit.

I then browsed erotic photographs. While I could find plenty of pornographic stuff, het and gay, none of it conveyed the intimacy and sense of emotional connection I was looking for. After all, I didn’t want to portray Frodo as a porn star, but as a lover.

Estë ( este_tangletoes ), e-friend, fellow Frodo-fan, and appreciator of art, poetry, and fiction, including the erotic sort, suggested I take a look at the film version of Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando. I remembered this film when it came out, attracted to its publicity stills in the media.

~ DVD cover for ‘Orlando’, with signature image on front:

Orlando (1992), a quirky art film, was not available to rent, but I was able to order a copy through our inter-library loan program. Weeks passed and the DVD arrived.

For those who are interested, here is IDB's entry on Orlando. Below is a synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes:

[Tilda] Swinton is Orlando, the melancholy, fiercely independent, and always humanistic poet whose story begins when Queen Elizabeth I—wonderfully played by Quentin Crisp—takes a shine to the beautiful boy. There are several amazing things about Orlando, not the least of which is that he is immortal, has the tendency to slip into death-like sleeps for long periods of time and, halfway through the 18th century, changes into a woman. Based on the novel by Virginia Woolf, the author's wit is deftly matched by director Sally Potter's translation of it to the screen. With spectacular sets and costumes, ORLANDO is lush to look at while retaining a charming intimacy.

Spanning four centuries to the present, ORLANDO mixes history with dramatized events—such as a great freeze during the 17th century that encases England in ice—resulting in fairy-tale enchantment and witty metaphor. Potter's signature vignette style takes Orlando on journeys both locational and emotional—as a patron to a mooching poet (Heathcote Williams), an ambassador to the Middle East, and a lover of an American explorer (Billy Zane)—in which he learns about all varieties of life, society, and gender in all of their complexities.

Here is another image of Orlando (still a man), in love with Sasha (Charlotte Valandrey), a mysterious and wanton Moscovite princess:

Here is a link to some more images of Tilda Swinton (in various wigs and make-ups) in the role of Orlando. I think she's awfully fascinating-looking.

I watched the film but was somewhat disappointed. Although it was witty and stylish, with good performances and lovely, almost surreal art direction, it really was not a very engaging film. It offered interesting ideas, titillating my mind, and it wonderfully filled my eyes, but my emotions remained unmoved.

Nevertheless, I saw at once that Estë was right: its love scene would make great manips.

Technical stuff.

This series of manips required more expertise than I had, so I learned a lot working on them. It took even longer than usual to find the right face for each screencap, cutting out trial heads and seeing how they looked, tossing out the “no”s. Once I had made a decision, I found more challenges. Frodo’s hair covered up Billy Zane’s shoulder or hand or ear, so that these had to be cut out and pasted over the hair. Sometimes more hair had to be cut out and added like a toupee, where the frame had cut it off to a great degree.

Then came all the hand-work: drawing, painting, and blending; making more hair, contouring necks that joined differently than in the original; more blending, more highlighting and shadowing and so forth. Tilda Swinton’s skin also needed to be darkened (jan-u-wine wisely advised this). Compared to her almost deathly pallor, Billy Zane looked like he’d been under a sunlamp for a month: not very film-Frodo-ish.

For Frodo’s faces, I had been collecting a file of screencaps in profile, since these are what are usually necessary for any image with two people relating to each other. Billy Zane’s essential beefiness could not be disguised in my first screencap, alas, although I did trim his arm where I could. He does not look like an all-out body-builder, but he is far more strongly-built than what most fans now think of as Frodo. In the other screencaps, Mr. Zane’s body shows very little, so his heftier physique did not matter.

Besides these things, there was the usual tweaking for colour, contrast, and focus to make elements work with each other in a convincing way – and — since manips 2 – 6 were to appear as a series, their values had to resemble each other, too.

For a more painterly finish, I added a grainy filter.

Source images for the manips.

I know some of you like to know what the original images that make a manip look like, so here are the Orlando screencaps and face shots that I used for each manip:

Manip # 1

~ base image:

~ Face image (wagon scene, RotK):

Manip # 2

~ base image:

~ Face image (tavern scene, RotK):

Manip # 3

~ base image:

~ Face image (Emyn Muil scene, TTT):

Manip # 4

~ base image:

~ Face image (“Get of the road” scene, FotR):

Manip # 5

~ base image:

~ Face image (Prancing Pony scene in Bree, FotR):

Manip # 6

~ base image:

~ Face image (Forbidden Pool scene, TTT):

Manip #1 was made from a screencap very close to the one that appears on the cover of the DVD. The scene is the morning after a night of love-making. The lighting is soft but bright. All the other manips were made from dark night scenes, which I had to lighten quite a bit.

I did not want a frame of her looking directly at the viewer, however ("asides" to the audience were a feature of Swinton's performance). Instead I chose a frame in which her expression was looking away, languidly, dreamily satisfied.

In the film scene, Billy Zane's lover looked drowsily amorous, pleased in an uncomplicated way, but Frodo’s face from the wagon scene makes the tone of the image more enigmatic, even dark, as if he knows something she does not.

I do love this manip, but because it really doesn’t go with the others in the series, I am posting it on its own.

Manip #1:

To me, the next four manips form a dramatic unit. For that reason, I am posting together in sequence. Although Frodo's hair is different in every picture (only making these manips did I realize how much the look of Frodo’s wig varied from scene to scene – just like the hair of a real person), they seem like little moments glimpsed of an encounter between Frodo and his lover.

I love how the mood shifts from frame to frame according to the changing gesture of her hand, the position of her head, and the expressions in Frodo’s face. At first Frodo seems quite young, as if surrendering himself to a lover’s appeal for the first time. I see trust opening to passion. But passion seems to subside to a post-coital mood that is older: reflective, almost melancholy.

jan-u-wine, who was my critical adviser on these, also found this series of four manips arresting. She wrote a poem for them, from Frodo’s point of view, imagining Frodo just before the start of the Quest.

Her poem moves me deeply as Frodo says goodbye to a love just beginning to open, but too late. It will never reach fruition. Frodo seems to have experienced it deeply enough, however, to feel its loss.

I do think these screencaps are beautiful, if flawed. They speak to me of the radiant but pensive loveliness this character has for me, a loveliness jan-u-wine’s poem draws out the more, its darkness setting off the light.

Manip# 2

Manip# 3

Manip# 4

Manip# 5

All else.

All else have I said farewell to:

riotous fields,
shorn now of their golden crop,

the green-rushed river,
slipping sweet and silent
on its road to the Sea.

Even my study embraces quiet
and unaccustomed order,

silver-nibbed quill finally at rest,
journals shelved,

in the spill of dying-autumn sun.

All else I may bid farewell.

All else.

All else save you.

Like to star-light you are,

like the prism’d dew-gems which adorn
the tender curve of the grasses
of Thistle Brook.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

have I touched

been touched


The sheet is soft and cool beneath me,

soft and warm above.

Your hair,
smelling of wood-smoke

and snow-wind,
dark as the cloak of the sky,

follows the tracery of your hand upon my breast.


I might laugh
at this ticklish touch,


were your lips not so near to mine,
your breath

becoming mine,

your hands
touching me,


eyes as gently insistent as your caress.

And I am almost afraid,

all my wanting
narrowing to this one moment,

this singular desire to know and be known,

frighted yearning to lose myself

within you.

And even all my desire does not stop the spill of my thoughts,
even your legs twining about mine,

your body moving over me,

drawing me inside you.

This might have been our marriage bed.
(and my hands are holding you to me,

this one time,

holding you,
my ear drinking the music of wordless cries).

might have been
so many things

that now shall never be.

(And you are quite still above me,

I want
to keep you


love-words ghosting upon my ear
as I move within the tightening circle of you,

your legs trembling along the length of mine,
gently imprisoned hands urging my restraint).

And even in the sweet almost-sleep which takes me,

even as your head lies, trusting,

upon my breast,
still, my thoughts, unbidden, unwanted, come ……

my thoughts,

threading outwards and away from every moment I should wish to hold,

as if I were not of warm flesh and blood,
as if

I were not meant to know even
this simple peace.

And now you feel it, too,

comes the knowing that this is no small farewell.

And I feel you,
feeling it,

like watered sunlight glinting upon a grey Sea,
far-away and final.

Your arms find their way about me,
holding me, promising me without words.

And even in this moment,

I am alone,

*more* alone,

for what we have shared,

desperate in the knowing
that this small portion
of joy

shall find its ending in sorrow.

And we do not speak,
but lie quietly together,

until the inevitability of the Sun’s
bright bands touch your cheek.

All else.

All else I have said farewell to.

And now,



Because its mood did not match that of the other manips, I am posting the last 'Orlando' manip below. I worked very hard on it, and it is quite lovely, but Frodo’s expression (from the Emyn Muil) was too .. trepidatious ... to work well with the group above.

Manip# 6

~ Mechtild

~ Jan-u-wine's Lord of the Rings-based poetry is featured at LotR Scrapbook.

~ Frodo Art Travesties Table of LJ Entries page HERE.

~ Frodo Art Travesties Album HERE.

Tags: art manips, film, frodo art travesties, frodo manips, jan-u-wine, manips

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