This scene continues to develop the strained relationship between the "troubled trio" (Frodo, Gollum, and Sam), which was set up in their first scene together, in TTT.
In the Emyn Muil, although Gollum has attacked the two and is presented as a ne’er-do-well, he is nevertheless depicted as miserable and pathetic. Audiences feel sorry for him. After Sam's unprovoked, brutal attack on him, all the more do they warm to Frodo's show of mercy and kindness towards their captive.
In the Dead Marshes, Frodo is shown developing a deep sense of identification with Gollum. Gollum's pulling him from death by drowning in the haunted waters of the Marshes adds the dimension of gratitude to that identification.
At the Black Gate, Sam is shown protesting, shaking his head, deeply troubled at Frodo taking Gollum’s advice over his.
In the next TTT scene the three of them are shown walking south through Ithilien. The depiction of their strained relationship is further reinforced, Frodo again standing up for Gollum in the face of Sam’s steady antipathy. This time Frodo is the edgy, temperamental one, Sam the voice of reason. But Frodo's outburst is instigated not only by Sam's statement that Gollum can't be saved (implying that Frodo's own future is without hope), but by Sam's pointed remark about the Ring. Sam quietly points out Frodo’s growing fixation with the Ring, and Frodo is so upset he actually stalks off.
I didn't cap this scene, but I did post the screenplay for it here for reference.
After the tiff in Ithilien comes the trauma of Henneth Annun, the madness at Osgiliath, then the calmer EE scene of Faramir's farewell to the hobbits before they enter the sewers of Osgiliath.
For Frodo and Sam, TTT actually finishes up on an up note. As they walk through the woods reconciled, light-heartedly they trade remarks about being in the “Great Tales”. But the optimistic mood of their exchange is tempered by the sense of foreboding created as the depth of Gollum's desire for vengeance and the Ring is revealed. As they chat convivially, Gollum/Sméagol is shown by himself, in turmoil, finally deciding to deliver Frodo to Shelob and death.
The same dichotomy (between lightness and foreboding gloom) is underscored by the final image of the hobbits tramping off through the woods, the camera lifting to reveal the darkness and terror of Mordor beyond, all jagged mountains, fire, and a wraith-swept roiling sky. It's a brilliant visual metaphor for where they are heading, physically and psychologically, once the story gets to The Return of the King. I think it's one of the best moments in TTT. The score is wonderfully, beautifully moody and foreboding, too, until it gets to Gollum's Song (the performance of which spoils the mood for me).
The excellent RotK scene capped below recapitulates the dynamics seen in TTT, but it is not exactly the same. This time the audience is aware of Gollum’s murderous plans. And while they might not like Sam’s physical brutality towards Gollum any better than they did in TTT, at least they can find it more justified, knowing that Gollum is actively plotting Frodo’s death.
As for Frodo, he shows very well in this scene. He is not like the testy, emotionally unstable hobbit he was in the "You can't save him, Mr. Frodo" scene from TTT. Here he’s a rock; still capable of clear thinking and sound prioritizing. Gollum might be plotting to kill them, but Frodo is right in saying they need him. Even with the shortened distances used in the films, the expanse, strangeness, and difficulty of the terrain Gollum is leading them through comes across to viewers. It’s clear the hobbits would not be able to reach their destination without a guide as good as Gollum. Frodo is not being sentimental or benighted in this scene. Nor is he saying Sam is wrong to be alarmed and suspicious, or that Gollum is trustworthy, only that Sam mustn’t drive Gollum off, because they need him.
Book scene: a collage of book excerpts showing Sam and Frodo’s thoughts about Gollum, from The Journey to the Cross-roads.Gollum has told them they now must hide during the day. The hobbits, tired, insist on resting before they begin the night march.
Gollum reluctantly agreed to this, and he turned back towards the trees, working eastward for a while along the straggling edges of the wood. He would not rest on the ground so near the evil road, and after some debate they all climbed up into the crotch of a large holm-oak, whose thick branches springing together from the trunk made a good hiding-place and fairly comfortable refuge. Night fell and it grew altogether dark under the canopy of the tree. Frodo and Sam drank a little water and ate some bread and dried fruit, but Gollum at once curled up and went to sleep. The hobbits did not shut their eyes.
It must have been a little after midnight when Gollum woke up: suddenly they were aware of his pale eyes unlidded gleaming at them. He listened and sniffed, which seemed, as they had noticed before, his usual method of discovering the time of night.
‘Are we rested? Have we had beautiful sleep?’ he said. ‘Let’s go!’
‘We aren’t, and we haven’t,’ growled Sam. ‘But we’ll go if we must.’
Gollum dropped at once from the branches of the tree on to all fours, and the hobbits followed more slowly.
The red glare over Mordor died away. The twilight deepened as great vapours rose in the East and crawled above them. Frodo and Sam took a little food and then lay down, but Gollum was restless. He would not eat any of their food, but he drank a little water and then crawled about under the bushes, sniffing and muttering. Then suddenly he disappeared.
‘Off hunting, I suppose,’ said Sam and yawned.
[Frodo and Sam sleep.]
Sam looked round. ‘Where’s Gollum?’ he said. ‘Hasn’t he come back yet?’
‘No,’ said Frodo. ‘There’s not been a sign or sound of him.’
‘Well, I can’t abide him,’ said Sam. ‘In fact, I’ve never taken anything on a journey that I’d have been less sorry to lose on the way. But it would be just like him, after coming all these miles, to go and get lost now, just when we shall need him most—that is, if he’s ever going to be any use, which I doubt.’
‘You forget the Marshes,’ said Frodo. ‘I hope nothing has happened to him.’
‘And I hope he’s up to no tricks. And anyway I hope he doesn’t fall into other hands, as you might say. Because if he does, we shall be in for trouble.’
Film scene from RotK: “I Need You On My Side.”
Sam and Frodo sleep quietly, but Gollum is talking to himself, split between Gollum and Sméagol.Gollum: Too risky, Too risky. Thieves! They stole It from us kill them, kill them, kill them both! (He wakes with a shouted, “No!”)
Gollum: Shhh! Quiet! Mustn't wake them! Mustn't ruin it now!
Sméagol: But they knows! They knows! They suspects us! (Goes to the water; staring at the reflection, Gollum’s voice speaks from the reflection.)
Gollum: What's it saying, my precious, my love? Is Sméagol losing his nerve?
Sméagol: No! Not! Never! Sméagol hates nasty hobbitses! Sméagol wants to see them…dead!
Gollum: And we will. Sméagol did it once; he can do it again. [Flash-back to Sméagol killing Déagol.]
Sméagol: It's ours! Ours! We must get the Precious! We must get It back!
Gollum: Patience! Patience, my love. First we must lead them to her.
Sméagol: We lead them to the winding stairs.
Gollum: Yes, the stairs. And then?
Sméagol: Up, up, up, up the stairs we go, and then we come to the tunnel.
Gollum: And when they go in, there's no coming out. She's always hungry. She always needs to feed. She must eat. All she gets is filthy orcses.
Sméagol: And they doesn't taste very nice, does they, precious?
Gollum: No, not very nice at all, my love. She hungers for sweeter meats. (Sam is shown waking, then listening.) Hobbit meat. And when she throws away the bones and empty clothes, then we will find It!
Sméagol: And take it for me!
Gollum: For us.
Sméagol: Y-es, we meant—we meant for us.
Gollum: Gollum, gollum! The Precious will be ours once the hobbitses are dead. (Gollum drops a stone into the water. Sam’s reflection appears in the water as the ripples subside.)
Sam: You treacherous little toad! (Sam hits Gollum across the face, sending him flying. Frodo wakes up and rushes to them as they struggle.)
Gollum: Ah! No! (Calling out.) Master!
Frodo: No, Sam! Leave him alone! (Frodo pulls Sam off.)
Sam: I heard it from his own mouth; he means to murder us!
Gollum: Never! Sméagol wouldn't hurt a fly! (Sméagol, having put his hand to his head sees blood on it and cries out.) He's a horrid, fat hobbit who hates Sméagol, and who makes up nasty lies!
Sam: You miserable little maggot! I'll stove your head in! (Sam lunges for Gollum but Frodo restrains him.)
Sam: He called me a liar! (To Gollum.) You're a liar!
Gollum: (Cowers behind a tree.) Ah!!
Frodo: (Turning Sam to face him.) If you scare him off, we're lost!
Sam: I don't care! I can't do it, Mr. Frodo! I won't wait around for him to kill us!
Frodo: I'm not sending him away.
Sam: You don't see it, do you? He's a villain.
Frodo: We can't do this by ourselves, Sam. Not without a guide. I need you on my side.
Sam: I am on your side, Mr. Frodo.
Frodo: I know, Sam. I know. Trust me. Come, Sméagol. (Frodo takes Gollum’s hand and leads him on, Gollum turning to give Sam a crafty, satisfied smile.)
The caps below (tweaked as usual) include some very beautiful portraits of Frodo. I have wondered whether Alan Lee* didn't work from an image from this scene in order to make his fine End Credits portrait of Frodo. The resemblance is very close, I think (see my icon for comparison).
* Note: I just learned that the RotK end credit portraits are probably not Alan Lee's drawings, but screencaps photoshopped to look like his pencil sketches.
~ 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: