Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

The Black Gate, Pt. 1 ~ Frodo attempts the Black Gate....


Pt. 1 of this series will cover the opening of the scene, in which Frodo and Sam first see the Black Gate. An introductory discussion will be followed by the appropriate part of screenplay. The entire book scene will follow the screencaps, including the part that would apply to the caps posted in Pt. 2. (I thought the scene read better in one piece.)

Pt. 2 continues from where Gollum stops Frodo, proposing another way. After a little essay about the book scene, the conclusion of the script for the scene will be posted, followed by the caps.

Pt. 3 shows Frodo and Sam hiding under the Elven cloak. There are no lines for this segment, and no equivalent book scene.


The film scene opens with the hobbits and Gollum looking with awed dismay at the Morannon (Pt. 1). After Sam's mishap (tumbling over the cliff) and rescue by means of Frodo's Elven cloak (Pt. 3), Frodo says he’s going in. Sam means to join him. As they plunge towards the gate Gollum stops them, pulling them back bodily, pleading that they not "take It to Him" (Pt. 2). "There's another way”, he says. Sam predictably challenges Gollum with heat, demanding to know why Gollum hasn’t spoken before. Frodo looks tormented by indecision. Then Gollum begs Frodo, clutching and stroking his sleeve and burrowing his head into the fabric (surely one of Gollum’s best scenes as Sméagol). "No," Sam continues to protest, trying to warn Frodo. Frodo, however, has made up his mind. “He’s been true to his word." With a lift of his chin he tells Sméagol to lead the way. Sam bites his tongue [hard], and off they go.

Although I do enjoy watching it, for me this scene falls short. I'm not sure why, exactly. Frodo looks terribly dishy: dirty, tortured and panting with angst. Gollum does some of his very best acting. (And I think the animators did a super job on the body movements of the trolls labouring to open the Gate.) But it doesn't seem to really break any new ground, character-wise, merely offering another version of the same dynamic seen in the better-done "You know the way to Mordor?" sequence, back in the Emyn Muil.

The filmmakers show their reluctance here, I think, to let go of their “action scene” formula when it would be wise to do so. In the book, there isn’t any action except the sort that is conveyed through dialogue—great dialogue—but they don't seem to have the confidence that "mere" dialogue, even when truly and vividly acted, can create real excitement. In this instance, the book scene is vastly superior, with its more complexly drawn Frodo. Book Frodo is very astute about Gollum, the Ring, and himself—asserting what he knows with urgency and power. The book scene also features a more sarcastically, wickedly intelligent Gollum, making him more worthy as an adversary. Sam is keenly observant, impressed by Frodo and sceptical towards Gollum, yet able to keep his mouth shut while he (and the reader looking over his shoulder) learns a few things about Master.

Reading the book and screenplay against one another, I can’t help missing the power and depth of the book. If the film scene were more compelling as film, I’d think better of it. But compared to the Black Gate, even “Go home, Sam” makes for vastly better drama, however unfaithful it is to the book and its characters. The Black Gate scene lacks the dramatic clout it needs to really justify itself, seeming more like an excuse to show the Black Gate opening and what the Easterlings look like. The filmmakers try to liven up their simplistic script by throwing in some “action movie” excitement—Sam’s tumble down the cliff and the subsequent peril of near-discovery—but it seems manufactured.

In the time they used to show Sam's fall and rescue they could have shown the book scene. They would have done far better, I think, to have stuck with it. Frodo’s solemn proclamation to Gollum reminding him of his danger as they go deeper into the heart of Sauron's realm, followed by his stern challenge to Gollum about what it means to have sworn on the Precious—and what it would mean for both of them if Gollum broke his oath—wow! That's the stuff of great drama.

Still, with its beautiful, angst-ridden Frodo, the scene makes for super screencaps. And here is the first set.


Film scene: Frodo, Sam, and Gollum arrive at the Black Gate.

Frodo and Sam climb to the edge of a cliff overlooking the Morannon.

Gollum: The Black Gate of Mordor.

Sam: Oh, save us! My old Gaffer would have a thing or two to say if he could see us now.

Gollum: Master says to show him the way into Mordor, so good Smeagol does. Master says so.

Frodo: I did.

Orcs are shown patrolling the top of the Gate.

Sam: That's it then. We cannot get past them.

A command is heard and an orc sounds a horn. Two enormous cave trolls stretch and growl as they push against the mechanism that opens the gate.

Sam: Look! The gate, it's opening! I can see a way down.

Sam moves closer to the edge. Suddenly, the rock underneath him gives way and he falls.

Frodo: Sam! No!

Sam: Ah!!

Frodo slides down the loose scree to go to Sam.

Gollum: Master!

[These caps to be posted in Pt. 3: Easterling soldiers see Frodo's cloud of dust and come to investigate. Frodo reaches Sam who is stuck, buried to his waist in the loose rock and dirt from the slide. As the Easterlings move closer, Frodo, unable to pull Sam out, throws his Elvish cloak over himself and Sam. The soldiers stop, looking about, but can't see them and leave. Frodo pulls Sam out part of the way but dashes to a rock to look at the Gate while Sam finishes freeing himself. Sam joins Frodo, taking cover behind the rock.]

Frodo: I do not ask you to come with me, Sam.

Sam: I know, Mr. Frodo. I doubt even these Elvish cloaks will hide us in there.

Frodo: Now!


As usual, the screencaps of this scene, made from the EE of TTT, have been cropped and adjusted for brightness, contrast and focus.

~ Frodo purposes to enter by the Black Gate.

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Book scene, from The Black Gate is Closed:

The two hobbits gazed at the towers and the wall in despair. Even from a distance they could see in the dim light the movement of the black guards upon the wall, and the patrol before the gate. They lay now peering over the edge of a rocky hollow beneath the outstretched shadow of the northmost buttress of Ephel Dúath.

‘I suppose it’s no good asking “what way do we go now?” We can’t go no further—unless we want to ask the Orcs for a lift.’

‘No, no!’ said Gollum. ‘No use. We can’t go further. Sméagol said so. He said: we’ll go to the Gate, and then we’ll see. And we do see. O yes, my precious, we do see. Sméagol knew hobbits could not go this way. O yes, Sméagol knew.’

‘Then what the plague did you bring us here for?’ said Sam, not feeling in the mood to be just or reasonable.

‘Master said so. Master says: Bring us to the Gate. So good Sméagol does so. Master said so, wise mater.’

‘I did,’ said Frodo. His face was grim and set, but resolute. He was filthy, haggard, and pinched with weariness, but he cowered no longer, and his eyes were clear. ‘I said so, because I purpose to enter Mordor, and I know no other way. Therefore I shall go this way. I do not ask anyone to go with me.’

‘No, no, master!’ wailed Gollum, pawing at him, and seeming in great distress. ‘No use that way! No use! Don’t’ take the Precious to Him! He’ll eat us all, if He gets it, eat all the world. Keep it, nice master, and be kind to Sméagol. Don’t let Him have it. Or go away, go to nice places, and give it back to little Sméagol….’

‘I am commanded to go to the land of Mordor, and therefore I shall go,’ said Frodo. ‘If there is only one way, then I must take it. What comes after must come.’

Sam said nothing. The look on Frodo’s face was enough for him; he knew that words of his were useless. And after all he never had any real hope in the affair from the beginning; but being a cheerful hobbit he had not needed hope, as long as despair could be postponed. But he had stuck to his master all the way; that was what he had chiefly come for, and he would still stick to him. His master would not go to Mordor alone. Sam would go with him—and at any rate they would get rid of Gollum.

Gollum, however, did not intend to be got rid of, yet. He knelt at Frodo’s feet, wringing his hands and squeaking. ‘Not this way, master!’ he pleaded. ‘There is another way. O yes indeed there is. Another way, darker, more difficult to find, more secret. But Sméagol knows the way. Let Sméagol show you.

‘Another way!’ said Frodo doubtfully, looking down at Gollum with searching eyes.

‘Yess! Yess indeed! There was another way. Sméagol found it. Let’s go and see if it’s still there!’

‘You have not spoken of this before.’

‘No. Master did not ask. Master did not say what he meant to do….’

Sam frowned. If he could have bored holes through Gollum with his eyes, he would have done. His mind was full of doubt….

‘And it’s a good thing neither half of the old villain don’t know what master means to do,’ he thought. ‘If he knew that Mr. Frodo is trying to put an end to his Precious for good and all, there’d be trouble pretty quick, I bet Anyhow old Stinker is so frightened of the Enemy—and he’s under orders of some kind from him, or was—that he’d give us away rather than be caught helping us; and rather than let his Precious be melted, maybe. At least that’s my idea. And I hope the master will think it out carefully. He’s as wise as any, but he’s soft-hearted, that’s what he is. It’s beyond any Gamgee to guess what he’ll do next.’

Frodo did not answer Gollum at once….

‘Sméagol,’ he said, ‘I will trust you once more. Indeed it seems that I must do so, and that it is my fate to receive help from you, where I least looked for it, and your fate to help me whom you long pursued with evil purpose. So far you have deserved well of me and kept your promise truly. Truly, I say and mean,’ he added with a glance at Sam, ‘for twice now we have been in your power, and you have done no harm to us. Nor have you tried to take form me what you once sought. May the third time prove the best! But I warn you, Sméagol, you are in danger.’

‘Yes, yes, master!’ said Gollum. ‘Dreadful danger! Sméagol’s bones shake to think of it, but he doesn’t run away. He must help nice master.’

‘I did not mean the danger that we all share,’ said Frodo. ‘I mean a danger to yourself alone. You swore a promise by what you call the Precious. Remember that! It will hold you to it; but it will seek a way to twist it to your own undoing. Already you are being twisted. You revealed yourself to me just now, foolishly. Give it back to Sméagol you said. Do not say that again! Do not let that thought betray you to a bitter end. You will never get it back. In the last need, Sméagol, I should put on the Precious; and the Precious mastered you long ago. If I, wearing it, were to command you, you would obey, even if it were to leap from a precipice or to cast yourself into the fire. And such would be my command. So have a care, Sméagol!’

Sam looked at his master with approval, but also with surprise: there was a look in his face and a tone in his voice that he had not known before. It had always been a notion of his that the kindness of dear Mr. Frodo was of such a high degree that it must imply a fair measure of blindness. Of course, he also firmly held the incompatible belief that Mr. Frodo was the wisest person in the world (with the possible exception of Old Mr. Bilbo and of Gandalf). Gollum in his own way, and with much more excuse as his acquaintance was much briefer, may have made a similar mistake, confusing kindness with blindness. At any rate this speech abashed and terrified him. He grovelled on the ground and could speak no clear words by nice master.

Frodo asks Gollum more about this other way, hearing more of the terrible Minas Morgul. After a great deal of pressing, Gollum admits that the way is guarded. The reader is reminded that even at that moment Gandalf stood amid the ruin of Isengard, and that even while speaking to Saruman, his thought was upon Frodo and Sam.

Maybe Frodo felt it, not knowing it, as he had upon Amon Hen, even though he believed that Gandalf was gone, gone for ever in to the shadow in Moria far away. He sat upon the ground for a long while, silent, his head bowed, striving to recall all that Gandalf had said to him. But for this choice he could recall no counsel…. And here he was a little Halfling from the Shire, a simple hobbit of the quiet countryside, expected to find a way where the great ones could not go, or dared not go. It was an evil fate. But he had taken it on himself in his own sitting-room in the far-off spring of another year, so remote now that it was like a chapter in a story of the world’s youth, when the Trees of Silver and Gold were still in bloom. This was an evil choice. Which way should he choose? And if both led to terror and death, what good lay in choice?

The day draws on, Frodo with his head upon his knees. At last, they sense Riders high above them, then new fear comes upon them as armies of Men approach, entering through the Black Gate. The sight of them, exotically coifed and dressed, prompts Sam to ask about oliphaunts. In order to explain what they are to Gollum, Sam recites verses about the beast. The Shire verses don’t impress Gollum, but they have an effect upon Frodo.

Frodo stood up. He laughed in the midst of all his cares when Sam trotted out the old fireside rhyme of Oliphaunt, and the laugh had released him from hesitation. ‘I wish we a had a thousand oliphaunt with Gandalf on a white one at their head,’ he said. ‘Then we’d bread a way into this evil land, perhaps. But we’ve not; just our own tired legs, that’s all. Well, Sméagol, the third turn may turn the best. I will come with you.’

‘Good master, wise master, nice master!’ cried Gollum in delight, patting Frodo’s knees. ‘Good master! Then rest now, nice hobbits, under the shadow of the stones, close under the stones! Rest and lie quiet, till the Yellow Face goes away. Then we can go quickly. Soft and quick as shadows we must be!’


Recent Entries:

~ Black Gate, Pt. 1: Frodo attempts the Black Gate.

~ Black Gate, Pt. 2: Gollum proposes another way.

~ Black Gate, Pt. 3: Frodo and Sam hide under the Elven cloak.

~ The Dead Marshes, Pt. 4: "Wraiths on Wings!"

~ The Dead Marshes, Pt. 3: "Master Knows" (EE scene).

~ The Dead marshes, Pt. 2: 'Who are you?"—Frodo tries to revive Gollum's memory of Sméagol.

~ The Dead Marshes, Pt. 1: "So bright... So beautiful..." plus jan-u-wine's poem of the same name.

Older entries:

~ All Frodo and Elijah screencaps.

~ Mechtild

Tags: essay, frodo screencaps, the two towers

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