Mechtild (mechtild) wrote,
Mechtild
mechtild

Audrey Hepburn and Film Frodo: Two Beauties.

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Here follows a picspam, preceded by a reflection.

As regular readers know, I’ve been thinking for a while about why I have responded so strongly to film-Frodo. I already discussed the amorous side to that response in a different entry. But there’s still the heart-pulling, cherishing sort of love that Frodo triggers, a love that is non-amorous. It’s the love I felt first for him. The images of Frodo I am thinking of come from scenes which bring out the combination in him of the rare and other-worldly, and that which is completely and recognizably human.

I’ve mentioned to some of you before how I would have chosen Audrey Hepburn (1929-1993) to be my Lúthien, a heroine renowned for her beauty, but also for her passion, courage, honesty and resolve. (For an excellent article on Audrey Hepburn, my primary source for this post, read this in Wikipedia).

I knew Audrey Hepburn was born in Belgium and lived in England. But I didn’t know she moved to Arnhem, in the Netherlands, with her mother and two half-brothers in 1939 (her parents divorced in 1935). She lived there during the Nazi occupation. She saw the town devastated by artillery fire. She saw Jews deported. She saw her uncle and her mother’s cousin, involved with the Dutch resistance, shot in front of her. With the rest of the Dutch she suffered privation in the form of hunger, even starvation, especially during the hard winter of 1944 (an experience that later influenced her to become in involved with UNICEF). She said later in her life, looking back,

“I was exactly the same age as Anne Frank. We were both ten when war broke out and fifteen when the war finished. I was given the book [Anne’s diary] in Dutch, in galley form, in 1946 by a friend. I read it – and it destroyed me. It does this to many people when they first read it but I was not reading it as a book, as printed pages. This was my life. I didn't know what I was going to read. I've never been the same again, it affected me so deeply."

Yet, like Anne, in spite of what she lived through, Audrey Hepburn seemed to burn with the spirit of life. Drawing parallels to Anne's life, Hepburn said,

“This spirit of survival is so strong in Anne Frank's words. One minute she says 'I'm so depressed'. The next she is longing to ride a bicycle. She is certainly a symbol of the child in very difficult circumstances, which is what I devote all my time to. She transcends her death."

Do I think Hepburn would make a great Lúthien because she is so beautiful? Being beautiful doesn’t hurt, but there are actresses past and present with more perfect faces. It’s her spirit, I think, which has come through the fire of her childhood experiences, that draws me: a soaring, transcendent spirit, paired with a scrappy will to live. She’s got qualities from both ends of the spectrum. It is the intense mix of these qualities—and her excellence at portraying them—that so moves and enchants me when I watch her on screen. That’s what makes me think of Lúthien. It also makes me think of Frodo.

Many have used the image of a young deer stepping into a clearing for the first time, in the morning of the world, to describe film Frodo’s special quality. I think the same quality is exhibited by Audrey Hepburn in many roles. For the purposes of this post, I am thinking primarily of the roles she played in her early twenties: “Roman Holiday” (1953), “Sabrina” (1954) and “Funny Face” (1956). Recently re-watching the first two films (I finally got the DVD’s for Christmas), it occurred to me how much my love for film-Frodo was, in a real way, prepared for by my prior love of Audrey Hepburn. I’ve loved watching her films since I was a child, and I’ve loved her in them. I think—in these films—she shares with film Frodo the ability to project opposite qualities superbly. They both have magic, exuding the sense that they are creatures stepped out of Faerie. Yet both are utterly, recognizably human: the screen almost vibrates with the intensity and liveliness of emotions deeply familiar to us—which they struggle to suppress, but which continually emerge or erupt on their faces. They both exude an honesty and a purity of spirit that makes them seem above this world, yet their infectious laughs and down-to-earth warmth make them seem completely familiar, people with whom we would feel at home at once. They both are light and graceful as gazelles, yet, depending on their mood or action in a scene, they can be as angular and gawky as 12-year-olds with an attitude.

Watching “Sabrina” last night, I thought how Audrey, dancing for the first time with the man she’s had a crush on all her life, seemed not to touch the ground. In a state of starry-eyed bliss, she floated. Even her arm around his neck seemed to float; elegant, sensitive, as if it were wired with tiny sensors, able to pick up every nuance of the person she loved, yet barely touching his dinner jacket. Later, disappointed and dejected, she trudged like a disconsolate adolescent across a room, stopped and stood. She looked like a scarecrow supported only by a clothes hanger thrust through its shoulders, ready to drop in a heap as soon as the hanger was let go.

I see a similar range of movement in film-Frodo. He can leap like a stag, or, merely standing still, seem poised to levitate. He is that sprightly and airy. Or, feeling despondent, his body language becomes as heavy and lumpish as dough left too long to rise. Both of these actors—Audrey Hepburn in roles like these, and Elijah Wood in LotR—are good with language, delivering spoken lines well, but it’s their faces and body language that make their characters live so vividly and make such an impact. Which is why they are so easy to appreciate in pictures, I guess.



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For the purposes of this entry I converted all the colour images of Frodo to black and white, using screencaps as well as behind the scenes shots of Elijah Wood in costume. The photos of Audrey Hepburn come from screen caps from her films, behind the scenes shots, and publicity stills.











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Just for the pleasure of looking at the caps, below are some screencaps of Audrey Hepburn acting in Sabrina. In the first six caps she’s just arrived at the Larrabee’s party. Just off the outdoor dance floor, she is listening to the romantic music, looking expectantly for David, the Larrabee son she’s had a crush on since she was little (William Holden). In the seventh cap, waiting for David in the tennis courts, it is the older brother, Linus, who actually appears (Humphrey Bogart). He dances with her in his brother’s place, making Sabrina wonder. The eighth and ninth caps are from a scene in Linus’ office.











































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Selected Tables of Links:


~ Miscellaneous LJ entries here.


~ Frodo Art Travesty entries here.


~ Frodo and Elijah Wood screencaps here.



~ Mechtild
Tags: audrey hepburn, frodo as character, frodo screencaps
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