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NF-Lee's Gildor and Frodo

HA # 6 of 7: 'The Goons of Gondor' ~ How the EE interrogation of Gollum screwed Faramir and Frodo.

Posted on 2007.05.19 at 20:17
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Note: Long, ranting post. If you love this film scene, don't proceed. Also, if you are here only for Frodo screencaps, he does not appear in this series. His face will be back in the next (and last) Henneth Annun installment.

Henneth Annun, Pt. 6: "Ithilien’s Finest 'Interrogate' Sméagol", plus some thoughts on how the films made Gondor look bad.

More than Gandalf whacking Denethor with mighty whacks, more than Aragorn beheading an official ambassador in an official parley, more even than Frodo sending Sam home, this for me is the most disturbing and distressingly un-Tolkien scene in the LotR trilogy. The treatment of Gollum at the hands of Faramir’s men is unparalleled for its gratuitous brutality. It is gratuitous because it is uncalled for. Yes, Gollum is a suspicious character. Yes, he's trespassed [unawares] where it is death to trespass. But he has attacked or threatened no one. He is merely where he ought not be. Yet before he is asked a single question—supposedly the point of taking him captive instead of killing him on the spot—they beat him savagely. "Softening up the prisoner" I believe this is called. But Tolkien did not write LotR like an episode of 24.

When I say the brutality is unparalleled, I mean it is unparalleled in other LotR scenes, not in the entire world of cinema. And it is unparalleled even in scenes of violence meted out by "the bad guys". The one exception is the brief flashback early in FotR when Gollum's torture is glimpsed in Barad-dûr. We can tell he is being racked, his fingers flexing over his head while he screams, "Shire!" "Baggins!" But that's not a fully dramatized scene, and the torture was being administered long before the time frame of the film, and (most importantly) by the ultra-bad guys, Sauron's captains, not rangers of Ithilien.

Think of the scenes in which Merry and Pippin are captives of the Uruk-hai, the "baddest" of the film's bad guys apart from Sauron and his chief operatives. Although they were attacking the Orcs when they were intercepted and abducted, not even they are treated like Gollum. Merry is shown with a fresh gash on his forehead, it is true. How he came by the gash is not shown, but I think it is fair to assume he got it resisting his captors, or being insolent, not just because they were "softening him up". Otherwise Merry and Pippin don't appear to have been beaten or assaulted by the Orcs, who were, after all, supposed to deliver their prisoners "alive and unspoiled". Or think when Frodo is seen in the Tower of Cirith Ungol. It's clear he’s a captive; he's been stripped of his upper clothing and his wrists bound. But although he is filthy, and he bears the marks of the spider's sting and the Morgul blade, he appears to be untouched. Since he is shown just waking up when Sam bursts in and rescues him, all the more would he not have been beaten. He hasn't been conscious to "soften up". Unlike book Frodo, he hasn’t been whipped, threatened, or questioned.

Perhaps the Orcs might have got around to roughing Frodo up had not Sam rescued him in time. They weren't to harm him, but what might "harm" mean to an Orc? If they delivered him to Sauron with all his limbs and still able to talk, that might have been adequate. But as far as film audiences saw the worst treatment a captive character received in all three films was the beating of Gollum in Henneth Annun—not by Orcs, not by the Nazgûl, but the good guys!

I dislike this scene so much I skip it when I am watching TTT. I had found the theatrical version of Gollum's "questioning" bad enough. It made a travesty of the book characters, making Faramir seem like a ruthless pragmatist and Frodo a feeble-willed excuse for a protagonist, and a faithless master. But when I saw the EE of this scene, I was truly appalled. I nearly wept for Tolkien and his beautiful characters, especially Faramir.

However suspicious and repellent Gollum is to Faramir, for all he knows the creature he has captured is what he appears to be: a weak, pitiful person less than half his height and a third of his weight, old, starved, and naked—plainly bearing the marks of previous abuse and a hard life. Faramir and his men are supposed to be Gondor’s finest, descendants of Númenor. Instead, they are portrayed as professional soldiers whose better natures have been compromised, even corrupted, by the grind of hard, dirty warfare.

But the scene is not only hard on Faramir and his rangers. It is hard on Frodo. Frodo son of Drogo, purportedly the best Hobbit in the Shire—the Halfling prince, the sacrificial Ring-bearer and tireless defender of those entrusted to him—lets this happen to Gollum without a protest. “Don’t hurt him,” Frodo urged when Faramir’s men hustled Gollum away from the Forbidden Pool. And when he looked up and saw Faramir’s satisfied smirk, he seemed to know he’d been used, tricked. Was that realisation the beginning of film Frodo's despondency up in the hideout? Did his spirit become quenched by the conviction that Gollum would soon be made to tell everything by these brutal, powerful Men, and that he himself would be next, beaten and maybe tortured until he told all, and the Ring taken?

Whatever the reason, something makes film Frodo say and do nothing while Gollum shrieks and is beaten only yards away, on the other side of the low wall of rock where he and Sam are sitting in a make-shift storage area. In the same situration, I am sure book Frodo would have planted himself in front of Gollum at once. If he were pulled away, he’d protest, calling on them to remember who they were, Men of the West. If they stopped his mouth, he’d still struggle until either they relented or beat him unconscious. But film Frodo doesn't do any of these things. So deep in self-absorbed gloom is he, he is deaf and blind to everything. I hate the scene for the way it weakens the good characters involved in it: Frodo, Faramir, his men, and, by extension, the people of Gondor.

My outrage and repugnance aside, does the scene work? Yes, amazingly, it does. It plays like an interrogation scene in a modern hard-nosed action drama, but not Lord of the Rings. In the film version, the harsh treatment of Gollum by Faramir can even be seen as justified. Lacking the idealism and kindliness of Faramir of the book, film Faramir is distinctly not a man to be trifled with. Yet Frodo trifles with him. If film Faramir is cruel to the creature he believes is Frodo’s operative, this can be somewhat explained by the fact that film Frodo lies to him.

In the book, Frodo answers Faramir honestly, if incompletely, about Gollum, telling what he may. What remains hidden, he says, is not his to reveal. The subsequent irenic relationship that springs up between them proceeds from a basis of mutual trust and respect. This is not the case in the film. “Where is your skulking friend? That gangrel creature,” Faramir asks when Frodo and Sam are brought before him. “There was no other,” Frodo answers evasively, obviously nervous under Faramir's piercing gaze. If his nervousness didn't raise a flag, Sam’s sidelong glance does, confirming Faramir's instinct that Frodo is lying. And if Frodo is lying about knowing Gollum, perhaps he is lying about other things....

Didn't Frodo realise the three of them would have been seen together? Faramir would not have asked the question otherwise. Why should Frodo tell such a tale, getting caught in a lie? Because of that lie, Faramir is given good reason to be hard on Frodo and those connected to him. Ah ha, I thought, that's it! "Because of that lie, Faramir is given good reason to be hard on Frodo and those connected to him".

For the screenwriters to accomplish their objectives, it was necessary to make Frodo look suspicious precisely so they could justify (dramatically, not morally) the ruthless interrogation scene and tense bullying of Frodo that follows. It is another case of "upping the ante". (For you who never heard them use this term, "upping the ante" was the reason given for many controversial changes where the writers felt the book scene would not play dramatically enough on screen.)

Still, even with this "upping the ante" agenda, Faramir’s harshness is unquestionably excessive. It hurts his character because he orders and condons such brutality. It hurts Frodo's character because he does nothing about it. It hurts Gondor's character because what Faramir and his men do reflects on their people and country.*

* See related rant about the diminishment of Minas Tirith and Gondor in the film treatment below, if interested.

To see how severely Faramir's character was damaged by this scene, I compared the portrayal of Faramir in TTT with that of his brother, Boromir. When I stopped to consider, it occurred to me that if I were asked before seeing the films which son of the Steward I thought was more noble and worthy, my answer without a second's thought would have been, "Faramir". But if I had never read the book, and had seen only FotR and TTT, asked the same question I probably would have answered, "Boromir". Film Boromir is a very sympathetic character. Film Faramir (until RotK, before which he is cured of multiple personality disorder) is not.

As every viewer knows, Boromir falls to the Ring at the end of FotR, but throughout the film (and in TTT flashbacks) he is portrayed as noble and high-hearted, with deep feelings. Even when he is tense and brusque, such as when he says to Aragorn in Rivendell, “I care not!” the opposite seems to be true. Boromir does care passionately about things; too much, perhaps. And not just about the Ring. Beside Boromir TTT Faramir seems calculating and cold, a man motivated by self-serving ends. In flashbacks we learn Faramir really does love his brother. This makes him far more sympathetic to EE viewers on that account, but he broods negatively on old hurts. Perhaps these old hurts are what poison his spirit as a film character, so that he behaves the way he does. In Ithilien and Henneth Annun he projects an aura of sullen impenetrability, however poignant he appears in the scenes with his father. It is not difficult to see why film Denethor, not the sharpest at seeing into the hearts of men, should prefer the ardent, laughing, high-hearted elder son to his more retiring younger brother, which Denethor interpets as lukewarmness.

Or put it this way: if Faramir had gone to Rivendell, in the film, and Boromir been the one to run into Frodo in Ithilien, is it conceivable that Boromir would have treated Frodo the way Faramir did, or allowed the brutalizing of Gollum the way Faramir did? No. Not the character we saw carousing with Merry and Pippin in Eregion, who taught them to handle a sword and saved them at the cost of his life. Not the man who defended the cousins to Aragorn as they sobbed outside the east gate of Moria, or consoled Frodo as he sat alone, waiting for the Elves of Lórien to grant them entrance. Not the man who anguished for his city under the mallorns, confessing to Aragorn his consuming worry for the plight of his people,. Not the dying knight of Gondor whose last wish was that Aragorn might save his city.

And that is the key difference between the two sons as portrayed in the film. Film Boromir disgraced himself on Amon Hen succumbing at last to the Ring, but he succumbed out of love, love for his people, whom he ached to save. As Gandalf said of himself to Frodo, “the way of the Ring to my heart is pity, pity for weakness and the desire to do good.” So it is true of film Boromir. Faramir, on the other hand, succumbed to the Ring as soon as he knew of it, not to save his people but as the means of earning his father's esteem.

Not a very noble reflection on Faramir.

Am I trying to make a case against Boromir? Not at all. I love film Boromir! He will forever inform and enrich my reading of book Boromir. But I grieve that film Faramir was made into a man so much less admirable.

Why did the filmmakers do this to Faramir in TTT? All I have been able to come up with is the "upping the ante" answer. In Brian Sibley's book on Peter Jackson (invaluable to a film-LotR fan, I think), the filmmaking team admitted they were frequently at a loss to make TTT into a film that could stand on its own, and hold an audience's interest (and so not sink the project, and infuriate the producers constantly breathing down their necks). I think that in their desperation to make TTT more dramatic they made Faramir, temporarily, into a bad guy. They didn't have anyone else. Boromir was dead and couldn't menace Frodo anymore. And they'd made Gollum so sympathetic he wasn't much of a villain, either. With Shelob's Lair moved to RotK, they didn't have a character in the last part of the film for Frodo to be pitted against. For the sake of "upping the ante", they created a picture of Númenor brought low in the younger son of the Steward. I'm sure the filmmakers did not mean to do ill. Being modern people, they probably could not imagine a world in which certain actions are simply wrong, and certain behaviours always dishonourable, no matter how expedient or plausible by modern standards.

I think that in tainting the nobility and honour of Tolkien's exemplary characters, for the sake of "upping the ante", the filmmakers succumbed to their own version of the Ring, and in the way Gandalf described. That is, wishing to do good (i.e. to make a good film), they adopted the world-view and methods of the enemy, becoming like him to a degree.


*Related rant, about the diminishment of Gondor in the films.

In messageboard discussions after the release of TTT, it came up how unflattering the film portrayal of Gondor was compared to Rohan.

In the book, it is made clear that Gondor is a nation in decline. People look nostalgically to the past, people spend more on tombs than houses; fewer and fewer bear and raise children—all signs of a loss of faith and investment in their common future. This line of thinking makes an appearance in LotR explicitly in the RotK EE scene in Minas Tirith in which Gandalf tells Pippin, standing on the prow of the Citadel after their disastrous interview with Denethor, something of how Gondor’s people and princes once were great but since became self-absorbed, looking to a lost past, rather than taking care for the future. But in the book the critique is balanced. Minas Tirith and Gondor are portrayed as a city and nation that still cherish honour and still inspire devotion.

As book Faramir says to Frodo,

I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise.

The portrayal of Faramir and his men in TTT tends to negate the notion that Gondor has—or had—such leaders or people.

The EE scene would be negligible in ten hours of film; an aberration, if it did not reinforce the generally poor impression made by the people of Gondor and Minas Tirith in the latter films. Rohan’s people are very sympathetically portrayed. Rohan is the younger, newer people, still full of vigour, unlike the dwindled Gondorians. I wonder, sometimes, if PJ, a proudly resourceful Kiwi, didn’t personally identify with the people of Rohan, and look askance at the people and culture of Gondor, who seem to represent Europeans whose glory days are past.

Whatever PJ's reasons, except for Éomer’s opening insult to Gimli, and Grima’s thugs who roughly seize and eject Éomer, the people and leaders of Rohan are shown in a very favourable light. (Grima, it should be noted, appears to be from elsewhere, evidenced by his black hair and bad teeth.) Its soldiers are fierce and formidable in battle, but never low. They fight foes that are their match, and with honour. Théoden (once he is cured) and his household are persons valiant, able, and true-hearted.

The lesser film characters of Rohan, too, are notably admirable and likable. There are stalwart Gamling and Hama, the young boy Aragorn encourages at Helm’s Deep, the mother who sends her children away from their burning village both to save them and bring word to Edoras. On the Deeping wall, the line of men and boys, farmers and craftsmen and their children, are frightened but determined, standing shoulder to shoulder with far more famous heroes and Elves, sharing their fate. And before the battle of Helm's Deep, the weaker people being evacuated do not scatter in their fear when the Wargs attack but stay together, following Éowyn’s directions. In the Glittering caves, old people and women tremble but stay calm, quieting terrified children. Viewers of the battle of Helm’s Deep care about the people of Rohan, longing for their rescue. In RotK, what makes their eleventh hour charge across the Pelennor so moving and thrilling is not the fact that the people of Minas Tirith will be rescued, but that viewers have come to care about Rohan. Viewers are for them, so they want them to win through.

Compare this with the portrayal of the people of Minas Tirith. At the top of the heirarchy, the city’s steward is crazed and malicious, spitefully treating his son, contemptuous of the visiting wizard expert, as well as his newly-sworn hobbit squire. In the films, the only truly good leader of Gondor is Boromir, but Boromir is dead. The younger son, although he is massively improved in RotK, is still not a leader upon whom the people can count. He fights well and valiantly in the film’s battle of Osgiliath, but when his father cuts him in the throne room scene, pressuring him to retake Osgiliath, Faramir caves in. He is moving in the scene, but he leaves Denethor's presence a beaten man. He walks out like someone headed to martyrdom. He will, in fact, lead his men on a beautiful but utterly hopeless suicide charge—his small company on horseback spread in a thin line across the plain, riding with swords drawn against a huge, dug-in adversary armed with bows.

Book Faramir was obedient to his father, too, but he never stopped caring first for the welfare of his men and the city. And the people of the city did not just stand around and watch him as his men were cut down. They watched in breathless horror as their barns and houses burned on the Pelennor, Faramir’s men coming back in ordered retreat. The Steward had a force held in reserve to back Faramir up, but did not let it go until the retreat was a rout, the Nazgûl appearing out of the sky. Then Prince of Dol Amroth led the sortie to rescue them, thundering across the plain, the people on the walls shouting, Gandalf streaming ahead on Shadowfax, again forcing the Nazgûl back by the light from his upraised hand. (He was not sitting about on an upturned crate pondering the folly of Men and their stewards.)

Faramir had stayed behind, guarding the rear. When Prince Imrahil returned with Faramir in his arms, gravely wounded, he told of Faramir’s great deeds before he fell. In the film no one comes back, only Faramir dragged by his horse, miraculously or purposely spared. A dramatic moment, beautifully scored, but what sort of picture does this give of Faramir as a leader of men? And what sort of people does it make the citizens of Gondor look, who watch the slaughter of their last and best and send no help?

So. In the film, Faramir is effectively out of the picture (except as an unconscious victim), and the leadership of Minas Tirith is left to Denethor. The people seem as resigned to death and defeat as their steward. There is no Éowyn shouting, “Keep together!” in Minas Tirith. Other than Gandalf, who is not of Gondor, there is no one who acts for the welfare of the people. In the siege of the city, people are shown panicking, running hither and thither, but no one is helping the other. Denethor tells soldiers under attack to abandon their posts, and they actually begin to wander away. When he says to burn him and his son alive, zombie-like, members of the elite guard follow orders. There are no shots of them exchanging pained or even puzzled glances, they just do it. "Duh" is their sub-text. They are featureless and affectless.

In the book, the city is oppressed by anxiety and dread, its mood swinging between hope and gloom as events unfold, but the mood is not one of enervated despair. They care. So hopefully desperate are they, rumours spread that Pippin is a halfling prince, the first of a host of warriors, small but doughty.

In the film, the people seem far less concerned for the fate of their city. When the White Rider streaks dramatically across the fields of the Pelennor to rescue Faramir attacked by the swooping Nazgûl, people standing on the city wall appear to be watching a mildly interesting horse race. Before the rescue, when Faramir and his men ride through the streets to go on their suicide mission, one or two seem truly (if quietly) broken-hearted to see their men ride out to certain death, but others are made to strike sadly picturesque poses. Still others drop flowers before the feet of their horses, but in a formal, decoratively listless manner as if they were dropping flowers on a grave. Even the children look mournful in a pretty way.

But what are children doing there? Why is that terrified woman running about in the siege carrying a baby? What sort of people is it that under threat of dire conflict doesn’t send its women and children out of harm’s way? In the book, they have been evacuated (by Denethor's order). That there are no children in the city is noted with sadness by Pippin. Bergil, Beregond's son, is one of the few boys allowed to stay. But watching the film, I have to ask what sort of people are they who would let their future (i.e. their children, and the women who care for them, and who might bear more) remain at such risk?

Again, all these details contribute to a picture of the Gondorians as people who just don’t care, who, like their steward have given up even before a blow is struck—that is, a people who aren’t much worth rescuing in the minds of viewers.

But, perhaps, even more harmful than the not very sympathetic portrayal of Gondor (its people and leaders), is the lack of recognizable characters to make the scenes of Gondor’s travails matter to viewers. It is difficult to feel empathy, watching the battles and crowd scenes, without particular characters to focus on and care about. There’s plenty of horror in the siege scenes, and it ought to move us. Heads of the city's men fly over the wall, civilians are killed and trampled, soldiers dropped from the sky to bounce painfully off rooftops below. But these people are all anonymous. Rohan had Gamling, Hama, Morwen (the woman with the children), Haleth (the boy whom Aragorn encouraged) and many unnamed men. Where are such characters in Gondor? Whis is a Beregond, Bergil or Ioreth? A Forlong, or Prince Imrahil? These, or characters like them, would have given the siege of Gondor the emotional impact it lacked.

The only Gondorian character I can think of that is shown in a fully sympathetic light is Faramir’s second-in-command in Ithilien and Gondor, Madril. I only know his name from looking at the cast list, but he is the old campaigner who advises Faramir in the Henneth Annun map scenes. In his brief moments in TTT and RotK, he manages to projects a sense of experience, steadiness, wisdom, and basic decency that is otherwise lacking in Gondorian characters. His complete loyalty to Faramir can only be a compliment to the steward’s younger son. Madril is not present for the beating of Gollum, and fights courageously and ably along side Faramir in the RotK battle of Osgiliath. There he falls, sadly. I am always sorrowful when he is killed by Gothmog, so early in the film. Apart from Faramir in RotK, he is the only Gondorian character I ever come to care about.

~ End of related rant.


Book scene: Faramir, as portrayed in The Window on the West.

Faramir, Frodo and Sam are walking behind the rest through the woods on their way to Henneth Annun. Sam is silent but Frodo and Faramir talk as they go.

‘War must be, while we defend our lives against a destroyer who would devour all; but I do not love the bright sword for its sharpness, nor the arrow for its swiftness, nor the warrior for his glory. I love only that which they defend: the city of the Men of Númenor; and I would have her loved for her memory, her ancientry, her beauty, and her present wisdom. Not feared, save as men may fear the dignity of a man, old and wise.

‘So fear me not! I do not ask you to tell me more. I do not even ask you to tell me whether I now speak nearer the mark. But if you will trust me, it may be that I can advice you in your present quest, whatever that be—yes, and even aid you.’

Frodo made no answer. Almost he yielded to the desire for help and counsel, to tell this grave young man, whose words seemed so wise and fair, all that was in his mind. But something held him back. His heart was heavy with fear and sorrow: if he and Sam were indeed, as seemed likely, all that was now left of the Nine Walkers, then he was in sole command of the secret of their errand. Better mistrust undeserved than rash words. And the memory of Boromir, of the dreadful change that the lure of the Ring had worked in him, was very present to his mind, when he looked at Faramir and listened to his voice: unlike they were, and yet also much akin.


‘Here, alas! I must do you a discourtesy,’ said Faramir. ‘I hope you will pardon it to one who has so far made his orders give way to courtesty as not to slay you or bind you. But it is a command that no stranger, not even one of Rohan that fights with us, shall see the path we now go with open eyes. I must blindfold you.’


Book scene: The interrogation of Sméagol, from The Forbidden Pool.

A man came and beckoned to the hobbits, and took them to the recess at the back of the cave. Faramir was sitting there in his chair, and the lamp had been rekindled in its niche above his head. He signed them to sit down on the stools beside him. ‘Bring wine for the guests,’ he said. ‘And bring the prisoner to me.’

The wine was brought, and then Anborn came carrying Gollum. He removed the cover from Gollum’s head and set him on his feet, standing behind him to support him. Gollum blinked, hooding the malice of his eyes with their heavy pale lids. A very miserable creature he looked, dripping and dank, smelling of fish (he still clutched one in his hand); his sparse locks were hanging like rank weed over his bony brows, his nose was snivelling.

‘Loose us! Loose us!’ he said. ‘The cord hurts us, yes it does, it hurts us, and we’ve done nothing.’

‘Nothing?’ said Faramir, looking at the wretched creature with a keen glance, but without any expression in his face either of anger, or pity, or wonder. ‘Nothing? Have you never done anything worthy of binding or of worse punishment? However, that is not for me to judge, happily. But tonight you have come where it is death to come. The fish of this pool are dearly bought.

Gollum dropped the fish from his hand. ‘Don’t want fish,’ he said.

‘The price is not set on the fish,’ said Faramir. ‘Only to come here and look on the pool bears the penalty of death. I have spared you so far at the prayer of Frodo here, who says that of him at least you have deserved some thanks. But you must also satisfy me. What is your name? Whence do you come? And whither do you go? What is your business?’

‘We are lost, lost,’ said Gollum. ‘No name, no business, no Precious, nothing. Only empty. Only hungry; yes, we are hungry. A few little fishes, nasty bony little fishes, for a poor creature, and they say death. So wise they are; so just, so very just.’

‘Not very wise,’ said Faramir. ‘But just: yes perhaps, as just as our little wisdom allows. Unloose him Frodo!’ Faramir took a small nail-knife from his belt and handed ti to Frodo. Gollum misunderstanding the gesture, squealed and fell down.

‘Now, Sméagol!’ said Frodo. ‘You must trust me. I will not desert you. Answer truthfully, if you can. It will do you good not harm.’ He cut the cords on Gollum’s wrists and ankles and raised him to his feet.

‘Come hither!’ said Faramir. ‘Look at me! Do you know the name of this place? Have you been here before?’

Slowly Gollum raised his eyes and looked unwillingly into Faramir’s. All light went out of them, and they stared bleak and pale for a moment into the clear unwavering eyes of the man of Gondor. There was a still silence. Then Gollum dropped his head and shrank down, until he was squatting on the floor, shivering. ‘We doesn’t know and we doesn’t want to know,’ he whimpered. ‘Never came here; never come again.’

‘There are locked doors and closed windows in your mind, and dark rooms behind them,’ said Faramir. ‘But in this I judge that you speak the truth. It is well for you. What oath will you swear never to return; and never to lead any living creature hither by word or sign?’

‘Master knows,’ said Gollum with a sidelong glance at Frodo. ‘Yes, he knows. We will promise Master, if he saves us. We’ll promise to It, yes.’ He crawled to Frodo’s feet. ‘Save us, nice Master!’ he whined. ‘Sméagol promises to Precious, promises faithfully. Never come again, never speak, no never. No, precious, no!’


Film Scene: The interrogation of Gollum from the EE.

Two henchman are holding Gollum by his arms, when they push him down onto the floor with a blow to the chest. Gollum is scrambling back up when Henchmen #1 swings a booted foot at Gollum, catching him under his midriff and lifting him into the air, the impact sending him sprawling. The camera turns to Faramir, who is shown pointedly not looking, but not saying anything. The camera returns to Gollum who is shown trying to scramble away again, but Henchman #2 walks behind him, striking his back and knocking him down. Catching him by the leg, he drags Gollum back screaming and flailing. Henchman #1 holds Gollum up off the floor while Henchman #2 delivers a punch full-force to Gollum’s midriff. Faramir finally turns and speaks.

Faramir: That's enough.

Henchman #1 hurls Gollum against the jagged wall of the cave, Gollum bouncing off onto the floor. Crawling to the wall he huddles against it, drawing himself into a fetal position, sobbing. His Gollum voice begins to speak, the Sméagol voice answering between sobs.

Faramir: Where are you leading them? Answer me!

Gollum’s voice: Sméagol... Why do you cry, Sméagol?

Sméagol’s voice: Cruel men hurts us. Master tricksed us.

Gollum’s voice: Of course he did. I told you he was tricksy. I told you he was false.

Sméagol’s voice: Master is our friend... our friend.

Gollum’s voice: Master betrayed ussss!

Sméagol’s voice: No, not it’s business. Leave us alone.

Gollum’s voice: Filthy little hobbitsesss! They stole it from usss!

Sméagol’s voice: No... no

Faramir: What did they steal?

Gollum’s voice: My Precious!!!!


Gollum is shown being hauled into the chamber, a Ranger holding each arm.

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Gollum is pushed to the ground with a blow to the chest. Note the lighted area to the right and back of Faramir; that is the storage area where Frodo and Sam are sitting on the floor.

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A ranger swings his foot back to kick Gollum, catching him underneath and sending him flying, as shown in the cap that follows.

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Faramir is shown pointedly not looking at the proceedings, but says nothing.

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Gollum, fleeing, is knocked down before he is grabbed by the leg and dragged roughly back.

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Faramir turns and watches as Gollum is held up off the floor by one Ranger and punched full-force in the stomach by the other.

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"That's enough," says Faramir.

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But the Ranger holding Gollum hurls him into a rocky outcropping on the cave wall. Gollum falls to the ground.

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Gollum crawls away to huddle against the wall, sobbing. Faramir pauses a moment, then begins the verbal part of the interrogation.

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Related Entries:

~ HA 1 ~ Faramir questions Frodo and Sam.

~ HA 2 ~ “Come with me!” Faramir tells Frodo.

~ HA 3 ~ Faramir asks, “Shall I shoot?”

~ HA 4 ~ “Trust Master!” ~ Frodo tries to persuade Sméagol.

~ HA 5 ~ “Don’t hurt him!” ~ Faramir’s men capture Sméagol.

~ HA 6 ~ The Goons of Gondor: the EE interrogation of Gollum.

~ HA 7 ~ “The Ring is taking me, Sam”.

Other screencap entries:

~ All Frodo and Elijah screencaps.


(Deleted comment)
mechtild at 2007-05-20 19:04 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, horrible. But making the caps made me feel like I needed to protest.
Claudia's Cove
claudia603 at 2007-05-20 02:41 (UTC) (Link)
That was not a nice scene at all. While I actually did enjoy the kinky tense scene with Faramir and the sword with Frodo, I HATED it when the "goons" of Minas Tirith beat Gollum like that. It was just so cruel and unnecessary and out of character...
mechtild at 2007-05-20 19:03 (UTC) (Link)
Someone in the next entry said they liked seeing that sword point on Frodo's skin, too. I suppose it brought out its smooth fairness. ;)

I hated the goons beating Gollum, obviously, because Gollum was treated that way, but more because the scene made these men goons, men who should have been portrayed as good, true men of Gondor, not the hired muscle for some mafia boss.
earths_daughter at 2007-05-20 15:55 (UTC) (Link)
I do agree. The addition of this scene to the EE cannot even be excused by the "upping-the-ante" argument as the dramatic tension plays perfectly well in the theatrical version without it.

(P.S. In the transcript of the film scene in your next entry (part 7) you have written Frodo where I think you mean Sam)
mechtild at 2007-05-20 19:00 (UTC) (Link)
Thanks so much for that proof-reading note, Brummie. That's been fixed, along with some smaller typos in this post. I stared at these two posts for so long (I've been trying to finish them since last weekend) I think I stopped seeing them. There were a lot of other confusing typos in the transcript of the book scene, too, which jan-u-wine alerted me to.

No, no amount of "upping the ante" can excuse this scene. It's a terrible addition to the film. Maybe when they put out the next version of these films they'll cut it, or give viewers the option of watching a version of it with it cut!
(Anonymous) at 2007-05-20 15:56 (UTC) (Link)

of rants and ranters

dear Mechtild, I really feel that I must speak publicly in this case. I think you do yourself an injustice by calling this a "rant". Almost by definition, such a thing comes from an emotional perspective, words and feelings flying without much thought. This is as keenly thought-out and argued as your finest essay. Like you, I really can't stomach this scene, but, unlike you, I didn't really go the extra mile to figure out (beyond the obvious violence) what bothered me in a larger sense. And now you have named it, fairly and closely reasoned. There were so many changes that occurred in the making of LOTR. I don't think we can or should view any of them as negligible, no matter how small, for all of them either raised or diminished characters, groups of people, even the very essence and meaning of what Tolkien wrote. This scene, though, with its ramifications, was a mistake on a grand scale. To my mind, at least, it never upped the ante. But using a "poker" analogy to describe what the film-makers were about is rather convenient. What, after all, is poker about, other than "bluffing"? (a polite word for lying). What this scene suffers from is a lack of honesty. It makes me sad, not just the scene itself, but what it says about the characters, on a larger scale. Especially Frodo. I'm sure the film-makers knew not what they did, but they irrevocably altered the dynamic of the character by showing him in a lie (and very obvious they were about it, too, as if they wanted to point it up) and fore-sworn to boot. Shame on them. When they "upped the ante", they only proved that there were no cards in their hands, as is shown by your very nicely argued "rant".

All i can say is: Up their ante!~

mechtild at 2007-05-20 19:17 (UTC) (Link)

Re: of rants and ranters

Well said, Jan! "Up their ante" indeed. And, no, I don't think they realised what they had done.

Before they got to the final writing and shooting of LotR, they had been to a screenwriting seminar with Robert McKee (big deal writing guru in Hollywood) in New Zealand, and they were extremely keen on it, using his principles as tools, and they seem to have done well with them for the most part. They said repeatedly how lost and overwhelmed they felt trying to make TTT into a viable film, with all the tremendous pressure on them to keep going, already behind schedule and millions over budget. They were grabbing for anything they thought would work. I think they couldn't see the forest for the trees, finally, and made decisions like these in their desperation. They were really wonderful for the most part.
maeglian at 2007-05-20 19:45 (UTC) (Link)
For once I skipped looking at your caps. I agree with every word you wrote, it's very well put and it voices my opinion exactly and very eloquently. Poor Faramir - yes they did go sa long way in throwing out a red herring and making him look susopect, cruel and a very far cry from the pensive, mature, kind and wise leader of men of the book.Thank you. In my mind you summarized it, I think, in this one sentence:

But Tolkien did not write LotR like an episode of 24.

Which I why I love Tolkien and actively loathe and despise 24, a show that I have long since stopped watching; - its only purpose seemingly being to make the American audiences comfortable in accepting and believing that brutal physical and mental torture is entirely defensible and necessary as long as it's the US of A administering it to the suspect persons of this world.

Also loved your rant about the people of Gondor. So, so true. You've a keen eye and an equally keen pen!
maeglian at 2007-05-20 19:47 (UTC) (Link)

Sorry for all the spelling errors in the above. Hope it's still possible to understand it.
ואם לא עכשו אימתי
karin_woywod at 2007-05-20 23:00 (UTC) (Link)

Part 1 of 2

Hi Mechtild,

These are very astute observations and reflections.

However, I don't agree about one minor detail. It may be a case of me turning deliberately a blind eye towards it, but I don't think the storage area adjacent to the interrogation cave is the same as the one holding Frodo and Sam captive. Barrels and boxes are looking everywhere the same, and I always assumed that storage items were lining the walls of almost every cave behind the waterfall.

Even if the two areas may have been the same part of the set (if you build a set of caves, you tend to use all available spaces for several different scenes that are not even meant to happen in each other's vicinity in the actual plot / story), I never saw it in the film that those two places were near each other / connected to each other.

The way I am seeing it, is that, of course, Faramir interrogated Sméagol at a different place than he held the hobbits captive in.

This would make sense, because then he would have one version of the story, without Frodo and Sam knowing of what Sméagol would have told him. So if they decided to further lie to him or to withhold information from him, he could confront them with what Sméagol would have told him. If you want to control your prisoners, keeping them seperate gives you more power over them. And with Frodo probably imagining what Faramir would do to Sméagol, now that Faramir had shown him once again, that Frodo had no saying in this, and with Frodo's imagination probably running wild and him imagining even worse things than Faramir was actually doing to Sméagol, Faramir would be able to intimidate / frighten the hobbits even more, so he would have a better start situation, a considerable advantage - simply by seperating them.

So, to me, there's no way, even in his weakened state, that Frodo would have witnessed this torture and wouldn't even have done as much as speaking out against it, even in the knowledge that Faramir probably wouldn't heed him.

Sorry, but I just don't see it in the film that Frodo and Sam were "next door" to this cruel scene and that they were only too resignated to try and stop Faramir.

Of course, your perception and opinion might be entirely different. You have the right to see it your way. But I, for one, will stick to my point of view.


So Tolkien wrote Faramir and Frodo as recognising each other immediately as being "tarred with the same brush", both being gentle-hobbits / -men going for the same aim.

But isn't film Faramir more realistic ? He doesn't trust Frodo, and he has experienced so many deceptions of the Enemy, he might be right in being cautious. We, the viewers / readers, of course know that Frodo is on the side of Good, and the only chance for Middle-Earth, but how is Faramir supposed to know that ?

Middle-Earth, even how Tolkien wrote it, never was this idealistic, fantasy, fairy-tale land. Tolkien told stories of real people, the human element was important to him. And to Peter Jackson even more so. Peter once said he wanted to tell the story as if it was a part of history, something that happened to real people. And this is one of the reasons why we connect with the story - we constantly ask ourselves - what would I do in a similar situation ?

Yes, there is magic in Tolkien's world, and beings that don't exist in real life. But I think Tolkien tried to portray the characters as realistic as possible. Why else would he describe, for instance, a doubtful, reluctant king, who only accepts his role, when there really isn't any other alternative / possibility ?

Tolkien's heroes are never one-dimensional, that's why we prefer LOTR over all other books that are set in similar fictional worlds. So even though Tolkien didn't write Faramir that way, I think it's justified to show him as a soldier, doing what soldiers (and leading ranks) do in a war situation / as guerillas / hidden warriors and scouts in an area already taken by the Enemy.

mechtild at 2007-05-21 16:29 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Part 1 of 2

[re-posted for misleading phrasing; sorry, Karyn, that you'll get two notices of reply.]

You are right that it would make sense to interrogate Gollum somewhere Frodo and Sam couldn't overhear them. But as shown in the footage, it does not appear that the cave is a truly multi-chambered place, and not finished inside (as in having doors built in, which would block out sound from one alcove of the chamber to another, especially with caves being notably echoey). In the book, it's described as a simple cave crudely furnished. In the film, it does appear to me that they shot it in what was meant to look like one big cavern, which had natural alcoves. But nothing more than a hanging curtain (such as the one Faramir pushes aside) for a structural partition. In the TE, it never occurred to me to think about the details of where they were. If Frodo and Sam heard some scuffling, well, that's no more than Frodo had already seen or experienced themselves being captured and pushed along to the hideout. Even if they heard Gollum's screams from the TE, they could think Gollum was being his usual histrionic self, making everything more than it was. But in the EE scene it begged the question: where were Frodo and Sam, and could they hear what was going on? I don't see how in the cave set they made for the film there could have been *anywhere* in the hideout where sound wouldn't carry from one part of it to another. Perhaps you mean that there is a separate small cave set into the hillside with a different entrance? Then it's true, Frodo and Sam wouldn't have seen or heard a thing.

You are right that film and book Faramir are different people, and every viewer knows that is true, not just for him but for every character. And book Faramir is a shrewd, astute commander and nobody's fool. I thought the scenes I've been presenting from the book throughout this series made that clear, but perhaps not. But the book scenes also show that Faramir, however consummate a soldier, is a man of honour who recognizes another man of honour when he sees one. I didn't invent that; it's in the text.

But isn't film Faramir more realistic ? He doesn't trust Frodo, and he has experienced so many deceptions of the Enemy, he might be right in being cautious. We, the viewers / readers, of course know that Frodo is on the side of Good, and the only chance for Middle-Earth, but how is Faramir supposed to know that ?

That people might find the book set-up implausible is not surprising. The screenwriters obviously found it implausible, and they wrote their script intentionally with the sensibilities of modern audiences in mind. But I still like to distinguish between the film and book. This is difficult sometimes, for the film made a huge impression on many of us, even on book fans like me, an impression that now colours and enriches my reading.

When you say, Why else would he describe, for instance, a doubtful, reluctant king, who only accepts his role, when there really isn't any other alternative / possibility ?, I can only say this shows how well the filmmakers did their job as storytellers! I have just been through LotR (the book) twice in the last few months, and this interpretation of Aragorn--which I love, by the way--is not found there. Book Aragorn is not doubtful about his role as king, nor is he reluctant to assume it. In fact, it is his keenest wish. He doubts his judgement sometimes, worrying he has planned poorly as he leads the Fellowship, but he never doubts his kingship or ceases to want to assume what he feels he was born to do. The reluctant king-Aragorn is a movie invention, it is not in the book. I love the introspection and self-doubt Viggo Mortensen brought to the role. It enriched the character for me. But it is not the same person who is in the book.

Thanks, Karyn, for a stimulating response!
ואם לא עכשו אימתי
karin_woywod at 2007-05-20 23:06 (UTC) (Link)

Part 2 of 2

I can understand Faramir's temptation to bring his father the One Ring. He doesn't fully grasp what the Ring is about, like Boromir, he simply sees it as a weapon for Gondor to survive.

And to bring his father something he knows his father desires, to redeem himself in the eyes of his father, is very tempting to him.

He never has seen hobbits before, like everyone else, he underestimates them because of their size. They mean nothing to him. They are not his allies. Frodo lies to him (okay, only in the film). Why should Faramir not assume that Frodo and Sam are spies ?

I don't see film Faramir as evil, only as hardened, by the war, and by his father, who never approved of his former softer side. Faramir doesn't allow himself to feel, he is supposed to be a role model for his men, he feels a responsibility towards them and towards Gondor.

Like other people in Middle-Earth (look at the rest of the hobbits, for example - Frodo is a notable exception, and the other three initially only went on this journey because of Frodo), Gondorians only care for their own country, the rest of Middle-Earth means nothing to them. So Faramir doesn't trust Frodo and Sam. It's only in Osgiliath that film Faramir sees, what the Ring does to Frodo, and what Frodo's endurance and suffering may achieve for Gondor AND the rest of Middle-Earth. He sees at the same time what is at stake, and that the union of the people of Middle-Earth against Sauron may be their last chance.

So there's a learning process, after which he lets Frodo go. And this film Faramir, who has to work hard and to pay a prize for these revelations, and who nevertheless chooses the hard way for himself instead of giving in to the temptation of bringing the Ring to his father, which would be so much easier and instantly gratifying - this film Faramir, who allows himself to feel again at last, is, to me, a lot more attractive / a far more interesting figure than book Faramir, who simply sees Frodo and understands him immediately.

Life means struggle, and I like the realistic, struggling (even with themselves) characters more, than the "unbroken" "linear", too simplistic, one-dimensional characters.

So I see both film Frodo AND film Faramir in a better light than you, but maybe that's just me . . .

Oh, and it's already 01:00 a.m. again, so I better stop here.

Even though we differ in opinion, we "agree to disagree", so the treaty above was not meant as an attack, just an explanation of the way I see (and feel !) things . . .

Good Night and Take care,

- Karin.

mechtild at 2007-05-21 16:38 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Part 2 of 2

Karin, I didn't mean to imply (if I did) that the film characters of Frodo and Faramir didn't make sense to me in their context. Frodo's character is a little inconsistent (since his heart was so moved by the spectacle of Gollum's suffering in the Emyn Muil, why not here--but you have already said that you think the films portray Frodo and Sam sitting in a part of the cave that is so distant or separated the screaming and blows can't be heard from where they are). Faramir's is not. He's presented in Ithilien as a shrew, hard-boiled career man, and he remains that way until RotK, in which he is suddenly a much nicer fellow, from his very first scene.

Life means struggle, and I like the realistic, struggling (even with themselves) characters more, than the "unbroken" "linear", too simplistic, one-dimensional characters.

Yes, we'll have to agree to disagree. The film characterizations worked 100% for you but not for me. The screenwriters, too, in interviews and the commentaries repeated reasoning like that, that they didn't want their characters to seem unrealistic; too simplistic, too one-dimensional. By which they meant, "like they are in the book." But I am one of those fans that didn't find the book characters unrealistic, simplistic, or one-dimensional. I'm not saying the film characters don't work in the film, but they're not the book, and I thought the book characters were beautiful the way they were. (Except Boromir - A+ to Sean Bean for giving Boromir a much-needed character make-over.)

Again, thanks for a thoughtful reply, Karyn.
addie71 at 2007-05-21 03:06 (UTC) (Link)
This was excellent. You have put into words so much of how I felt about this part of the film. Thank you.
mechtild at 2007-05-21 15:29 (UTC) (Link)
Thank you, Addie. I guess making the screencaps brought up a lot of feeling and thought long-brewing. :)
Estë   (or ST for short)
este_tangletoes at 2007-05-21 09:26 (UTC) (Link)
Gosh! Mechtild!

What a great rant. I’m glad I decided to open and read more –in spite of your warning. I always feel very distressed by this film scene.


mechtild at 2007-05-21 15:31 (UTC) (Link)
Why, thank you, Estë. I actually didn't think anyone much would read it when I explained there were no Frodo pictures -- and because it's so long. *smooches*
(Anonymous) at 2007-05-29 05:03 (UTC) (Link)

thank you

thank you for the thoughtful "rant" although I wouldn't call it that at all!

as much as I love the films scenes like this one hurt. I can take all kinds of changes .. but when I look back over the films and the worst cruelty is inflicted by who was once one of my favorite characters (and the character Tolkien I believe identified with the most) its pretty hard to take.

and in ROTK my then 10 year old daughter leaned over twice to say "that doesn't really happen in the book does it?" so there were contradictions for movie only viewers as well

magpie_2 at 2007-05-29 05:05 (UTC) (Link)

Re: thank you

oops! its me! sorry I wasn't logged in :)
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