Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,

Shelob’s Lair Pt. 1 ~ Entering the tunnel (#1 of 9).


This is the first in a series of nine for Shelob's tunnel and the pass of Cirith Ungol up until the moment when Shelob is hovering over Frodo's head. I liked so many of the screencaps, even after eliminating half of them, there were too many to squeeze into fewer posts.

I think this an excellent piece of filmmaking. Although Peter Jackson departs radically from the book, I think he succeeds in making the sequence a showstopper: part psychological drama, part horror film. As I discussed in the opening essay for the previous series of screencaps, The Stairs of Cirith Ungol, Jackson consciously or unconsciously grounds his version of scene in Tolkien's mythic tale of the hero who must journey into darkness in order to confront the monster, but with his own more distinctly psychological twist. Cut off from everyone, even his Sam, Frodo must confront not only the monster from without, Shelob, but the monster from within, Gollum (portrayed in the films as Frodo’s dark alter-ego).

At the opening, Frodo's exhaustion and Gollum's resolve are quickly and vividly established, along with the first pricks of unease in Frodo's mind. Even before he steps foot into the tunnel one can see that something is not right. The long haul following Gollum up the path seems to have drained Frodo of his "Go home" enthusiasm, and the first twinges of caution, even suspicion, flit across his sweaty, toil-stained face.

Artistically, the composition of these opening shots is exquisite in a painterly way. The way many are shot from within the tunnel looking out, Frodo dim-faced, then the both of them in silhouette, with the craggy peaks of the Ephel Dúath in the background washed in an ethereal light, gives the frames a subtle depth as well as establishing the darkness of the cave. For it is not, in fact, very dark in the film's cave scenes. The camera-people needed enough light to shoot. But the contrast made by Frodo and Gollum's figures as they enter with the brightness behind them, considering the already-dark scenes on the Stairs, well establishes that what Frodo is entering is very dark indeed. One can't give that impression simply by filming the tunnel's mouth. Shooting from within the mouth is an excellent choice. ("Mouth"—that has an ominous sound, as if the whole lair and not just its giant occupant were the monster—which is perhaps true at a deeper level.) As a last art note, these computer-size frames are too small to show the scenic detail so I didn't post a lot of caps of this sequence. It really needs to be seen on the big screen to appreciate the artistry.


Because the book scene is so different, I will be posting the chapter highlights below the caps, in instalments.

Also, as usual, all the caps have been tweaked from their original state. This sequence is especially dark so I did a great deal of brightening, as well as the usual sharpening and cropping.


Film Scene:Gollum leads Frodo to the entrance of Shelob’s tunnel.

~ Frodo is weary and Gollum eager as he points to the opening.

Gollum: There.

Frodo: What is this place?

Gollum: Master must go inside the tunnel.

Frodo: Now that I'm here, I don't think I want to.

Gollum: It's the only way! Go in or go back.

Frodo: I cannot go back. What's that smell?

Gollum: Orcses filth. Orcses come in here sometimes. Hurry!

~ Gollum disappears into the gloom ahead.


~ Frodo enters Shelob’s tunnel, full-screen edition:

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Book scene from Shelob’s Tunnel, TTT.

They passed on, Gollum in front and the hobbits now side by side, up the long ravine between the piers and columns of torn and weathered rock, standing like huge unshapen statues on either hand. There was no sound. Some way ahead, a mile or so, perhaps, was a great grey wall, a last huge upthrusting mass of mountain-stone…. Sam sniffed the air.

‘Ugh! That smell!’ he said. ‘It’s getting stronger and stronger.’

Presently they were under the shadow, and there in the midst of it they saw the opening of a cave. ‘This is the way in,’ said Gollum softly. ‘This is the entrance to the tunnel’….

‘Is this the only way, Sméagol?’ said Frodo.

‘Yes, yes,’ he answered. ‘Yes, we must go this way now.’

‘D’you mean to say you’ve been through this hole?’ said Sam. ‘Phew! But perhaps you don’t mind bad smells.’

Gollum’s eyes glinted. ‘He doesn’t know what we minds, does he, precious? No, he doesn’t. But Sméagol can bear things. Yes. He’s been through, O yes, right through. It’s the only way.’

‘And what makes the smell, I wonder,’ said Sam. ‘It’s like—well, I wouldn’t like to say. Some beastly hole of the Orcs, I’ll warrant, with a hundred years of their filth in it.’

‘Well,’ said Frodo, ‘Orcs or no, if it’s the only way, we must take it.’


Entries in the Shelob's Lair series:

~ Pt. 1: Entering the tunnel.

~ Pt. 2: Frodo is betrayed.

~ Pt. 3: Shelob perceived, plus jan-u-wine’s “That Which Waits”.

~ Pt. 4: The Star-glass.

~ Pt. 5: Shelob attacks.

~ Pt. 6: Gollum taunts Frodo.

~ Pt. 7: Frodo attacked by Gollum.

~ Pt. 8: Gollum makes his plea.

~ Pt. 9: Frodo resolves to go forward, plus jan-u-wine’s “The Web-ring”.

Tables of Links:

~ Frodo and Elijah screencaps Main Page.

~ Mechtild

Tags: essay, frodo screencaps, return of the king

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