This, too, is an excellent scene. It’s beautifully played and filmed. I think Sean Astin did some of his best acting here. It’s not showy, but watching his Sam consider their store of food and how long it could be expected to last, I felt as though I could see his thought processes as they happened.
Elijah Wood’s Frodo is awfully good here, too, besides looking utterly gorgeous. He’s seems very withdrawn at the scene’s opening, as if he were observing Sam through the other end of a telescope, without real engagement. It’s almost as if he’s coming out of anaesthesia when he first speaks. “No, it isn’t mid-day yet,” he answers in a voice tentative and foggy, like someone venturing his first words after emerging from a coma. And so he has. Poring secretly over the Ring, he has been drawn into its mental world. He seems drained here, too, perhaps from wrestling with it.
Frodo doesn’t seem to come out of his Ring-induced numbness until the lembas is put into his hand. The camera provides a close-up of the hand-to-hand transaction, as if underscoring its importance. It's as if the reception of the lembas jump-starts something in Frodo—the lembas itself, and the loving care with which Sam gives it. And Frodo begins to behave like himself again, accepting the food. He pauses, asking about Sam (who says unconvincingly he's not hungry), but accepts the gift and begins munching it eagerly. Too eagerly, perhaps, implying that this sequence was cobbled together out of more than one version of the script, but the end result works for me beautifully, making for an enigmatic but strong scene.
I always ache as Sam explains to Frodo he’s counted the waybread, and figures they’ll have enough. “Enough for what?” Frodo pauses to ask, mystified. Sam’s face is its familiar, wholesome self, but unlike Frodo’s it still bears a confidently hopeful look. "For the journey home", he answers matter-of-factly. The look on Frodo’s face moves me to tears every time, as if he sees in that one remark, so guilelessly spoken, the disparity between their expectations for their future, and the disparity between them as people. There is a gulf between him and Sam now, and between him and his old self. No longer is his heart innocent but tainted, more and more in thrall to the evil he carries, and further and further from hope.
Secondarily, I think the scene is meant to provide a contrast reference for the “Go home, Sam” scene that comes later on. In this scene Sam is portrayed as clearly concerned for their food situation: counting it, rationing it, as well as already giving Frodo part of his share. In the scene on the Stairs, this same Sam is accused of eating up all their food—not just his but Frodo’s—leaving them absolutely nothing for the crucial journey to Mt. Doom, never mind “the journey home”. The scenes are so parallel I can’t think other than that the filmmakers planned them to comment on one another. With this opening scene in mind, all the more is the Frodo of “Go Home, Sam” portrayed as someone very far gone. That Frodo could believe Gollum's accusation—made all the more implausible by this earlier scene—shows that Frodo, if only temporarily, has left the path of reason.
Third, this scene also is reflected in the waterskin scene on the plain of Gorgoroth. In that scene, parched and exhausted, Frodo accepts Sam’s share of the water—just as he accepted Sam's share of the bread in Ithilien. But still believing Sam to be harbouring vain hopes, Frodo struggles to maintain the fiction of their coming back when he remarks with listless regret, “There'll be none left for the return journey.” But Sam in the waterskin scene is not the same Sam in Ithilien, the Sam who was busy rationing their stores so there'd be enough to come back. This Sam understands. “I don’t think there will be a return journey, Mr. Frodo”, he says. The looks they exchange are grim and sad. There will be no more pretending with each other. But, in a way, the new honesty has to be a relief. Keeping up a false front is very energy-draining.
When I think of how well the writers used this early scene to set off the scenes to come, I have to admire them. These thematic “echoes” really enrich the film for me.
Book scene, from The Journey to the Cross-roads.
Sam has been sleeping, dreaming that he is looking for something in the Bag End garden, which has become weedy and rank. He remembers: his pipe! But waking he sees where he is.
It seemed to be almost dark. Why had his master let him sleep on out of turn, right on till evening?
‘Haven’t you had no sleep, Mr. Frodo?’ he said. ‘What’s the time? Seems to be getting late!’
‘No it isn’t,’ said Frodo. ‘But the day is getting darker instead of lighter: darker and darker. As far as I can tell, it isn’t midday yet, and you’ve only slept for about three hours.’
‘I wonder what’s up,’ said Sam. ‘Is there a storm coming? If so it’s going to be the worst there ever was. We shall wish we were down a deep hole, not just stuck under a hedge.’ He listened. ‘What’s that? Thunder, or drums, or what is it?’
‘I don’t know,’ said Frodo. ‘It’s been going on for a good while now. Sometimes the ground seems to tremble, sometimes it seems to be the heavy air throbbing in your ears.’
At that moment a rolling and rumbling noise was heard again, louder now and deeper. The ground seemed to quiver under their feet. ‘I think we are in for trouble anyhow,’ said Frodo. ‘I’m afraid our journey is drawing to an end.’
‘Maybe,’ said Sam; ‘but where there’s life there’s hope, as my Gaffer used to say; and need of vittles, as he mostways used to add. You have a bite, Mr. Frodo, and then a bit of sleep.’
That afternoon, as Sam supposed it must be called, wore on. Looking out from the covert he could see only a dun, shadowless world, fading slowly into a featureless, colourless gloom. It felt stifling but not warn. Frodo slept unquietly, turning and tossing, and sometimes murmuring. Twice Sam thought he heard him speaking Gandalf’s name. The time seemed to drag interminably. Suddenly Sam heard a hiss behind him, and there was Gollum on all fours, peering at them with gleaming eyes.
‘Wake up, wake up! Wake up, sleepies!’ he whispered. ‘Wake up! No time to lose. We must go, yes, we must go at once. No time to lose!’
Film Scene: Frodo and Sam resting in Ithilien, from RotK. A short EE extension is indicated by green text.Gollum appears from above Frodo and Sam’s sleeping place. Sam is sleeping but Frodo has been examining the Ring, which he has tucked back into his shirt at the first noise.
Gollum: Wake up! Wake up! Wake up, sleepies! We must go, yess. We must go at once.
Sam: (To Frodo.) Haven’t you had any sleep, Mr. Frodo? I've gone and had too much. Must be getting late.
Frodo: No. It isn't. It isn't mid-day yet. The days are growing darker.
Gollum: Come on! Must go, no time! (Gollum begins to dash off and Sam calls after him.)
Sam: Not before Mr. Frodo's had something to eat.
Gollum: No time to lose, silly! (Gollum scuttles off.)
Sam: (Handing Frodo some lembas.) Here.
Frodo: (Frodo eats it eagerly but pauses when he sees Sam is not eating.) What about you?
Sam: Oh no, I'm not hungry. At least not for lembas bread.
Sam: All right, we don't have that much left. We have to be careful, or we're going to run out. You go ahead and eat that, Mr. Frodo. I've rationed it. There should be enough.
Frodo: For what?
Sam: The journey home.
The hobbits follow Gollum into a bleak, broken landscape with leafless trees under a dark, brooding sky.
Gollum: Come, hobbitses. Very close, now. Very close to Mordor. No safe places here. Hurry!
As usual, these caps (also from the “full screen” edition) have been adjusted for lighting and focus.
~ Sam, wakened by Gollum, insists that Frodo have something to eat before they go on.
~ Ithilien Pt. 1: Ithilien Grows Dark ~ plus jan-u-wine’s “Too Often”.
Ithilien Pt. 2: “The Days Are Growing Darker”.
Ithilien Pt. 3: “I Need You On My Side.”
~ Ithilien Pt. 4: 'We're not in decent places.'
~ Ithilien Pt. 5: The Cross-roads, plus jan-u-wine's "At the Cross-roads of the King".
Other screencap entries: