I bow to no man in my admiration of Peter Jackson’s fine trilogy of Lord of the Rings films (and indeed his ongoing Hobbit). I may not be able to disagree with any of the specific criticisms Andrew Rilstone makes in his fine reviews (Fellowship, Towers, Return), but I am a million miles away from agreeing with his downbeat conclusions. Yes, all the films are flawed; but they are mostly flaws of ambition, and so they are easy to forgive. And they are overwhelmed by the huge amount of good stuff. In fact, the three LotR films are arguably my three favourite films of all time.
That’s why this pains me so much:
It’s the scene in Lothlorien when Frodo has freely offered the One Ring to Galadriel. In the book, here’s what she says:
“And now at last it comes. You will give me the Ring freely! In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!”
She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful. Then she let her hand fall, and the light faded, and suddenly she laughed again, and lo! she was shrunken: a slender elf-woman, clad in simple white, whose gentle voice was soft and sad.
“I pass the test”, she said. “I will diminish, and go into the West and remain Galadriel.”
In the film, Galadriel’s speech is slightly rewritten — and I hope I will not be thought a heretic if I say that I think the Jackson/Walsh/Boyens version is, if anything, an improvement:
In place of a Dark Lord, you would have a queen! Not dark, but beautiful and terrible as the dawn! Treacherous as the sea! Stronger than the foundations of the earth! All shall love me, and despair!
But Jackson can’t accept the obvious metaphorical reading of the second paragraph. When we read that she stood before Frodo, “seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring”, we immediately understand that the key word is “seeming”: Tolkien is describing what goes through Frodo’s mind as he understands what it would mean for Galadriel to take the ring. He is not saying that Galadriel flipped into photographic negative and her voice became deep, distorted and ring-modulated. But that’s how Jackson interprets it.
And I find this mystifying because Jackson’s touch is so sure elsewhere (not least in the condensation of the speech noted above). When Gandalf delivers the “and some that die deserve life” speech, Jackson trusts McKellan to do it right, and so he does. It’s half-whispered, spoken almost as much to himself as to Frodo, more a meditation than a lecture. Gandalf is not lit up in flourescent lights, and his voice is not artificially raised in pitch to chipmunk levels.
McKellan needs no such treatment, because (unlike some of the cast, it must be said) he can act. The thing is, so can Cate Blanchett. She’s perfectly capable of delivering such good lines under her own steam, and absolutely doesn’t need the flavour-enhancers that Jackson imposed — not even had they been done well, rather than in such a way that they obscure the words.
It was badly done, Peter. Badly done indeed.
I didn’t think that part was half as bad as the character assassination of Merry and Pippin. In the book: Frodo’s dedicated friends, who willingly planned to join him despite knowing the danger. In the movie: A pair of buffoons who stumbled into the journey entirely by accident.
Hey, Mike, my friends tend to joke about Galadriel’s “condition” in that scene, it seems to fit.
I take your point about the speech being altered, but not ruined. Jackson and the writers recast the speech into its forms: Galadriel is assuming an aspect, and in the mythos of the world Frodo is “seeing” this transformed figure as she takes its seeming. Jackson earlier shows Gandalf describe to Frodo what would happen if HE took the ring:
‘No!’ cried Gandlaf, springing to his feet. ‘With that power I should have power too great and terrible.And over me the Ring would gain a power still greater and more deadly.’ His eyes flashed and his face was lit as by a fire within. ‘Do not tempt me! For I do not wish to become like the Dark Lord himself. Yet the way of the Ring to my heart is by pity, pity for weakness and the desire of strength to do good. Do not tempt me! I dare not take it, not even to keep it safe, unused; The wish to wield it would be too great for my strength. I shall have such need of it. Great perils life before me.’
We shall assume his face did not in fact become as of fire or was truly lit within. Jackson depicted this with distortion of the frame, of Gandalf growing larger, more imposing, and become as a threat … the very point. Galadriel, on the other hand, was describing her future potential state, Gandalf his fears of the powers gained by the Ring, yet both took on aspects that may seem otherworldly.
It may be something of Tolkein’s work that he describes Elves and Maiar and Wizards as essences, mutable things that, unlike the mortal races, could BECOME aspects (the price for being immortal), intangible or tangible qualities. Galadriel would and could take on the shapes and grow to size — it’s not just in Frodo’s mind, just as the Ring’s weight DOES increase. That’s the thing about this that may be lost, though yes something fundamental about the declarations of both are lost: Tolkein is describing creatures that can become something other, and resisting the changes such power brings, and merely entertaining the idea (both have the empowered Elven rings) can cause changes to them.
@Kyralessa, beautifully put and undeniably true. Watching many of the scenes with Merry and Pippin is to cringe. But then the treatment of Gimli (his status as comic relief, “Ha, he’s *short!*” how funny; the dwarf-tossing “joke” etc) is equally poor. Of course, one must appeal to the excessively dim above all, apparently!
I agree. In fact, it’s this kind of visual “enhancements” that made me dislike the films. In the books, power (in all its forms) is *felt*. In the films, it’s brutishly CGI’d into our faces. I won’t even start with the Gandalf vs. Saruman ninja fight scene – it’s things like this Galadriel transformation, how Bilbo looked when he saw the ring in Rivendell, Aragorn’s swordfight with the undead king, the mouth of the Mouth of Sauron… that’s not to say that the films should follow the books word by word, or that imagery is bad – but c’mon.
Ok, so for me, some of the films’, uh, “enhancements” seemed gratuitous and others of them I was ok with. Because, no matter how good the actor is, you’re still not always going to be able to convey the same degree of emphasis as was present in the text if you *just* rely on the Really Good Acting.
But I’m wondering why you choose to single out this example from the whole list? Maybe because you really like Galadriel’s speech? Or maybe because you felt the enhancing was just far, far too much?
Other examples of “enhancing” include, but are not limited to: early in the Shire at Bag End when Gandalf is trying to talk to Bilbo sensibly about the Ring and Bilbo shouts “You want it for yourself!” and then Gandalf “seemed to grow taller” as he shouts back “Do not take me for some conjurer of cheap tricks!”
And again with Bilbo, there’s the scene where he lunges for the Ring around Frodo’s neck–we see him visually change to Gollum for a moment. IMHO, *that* was a change that was gratuitous. No need for all that, the lung itself would’ve been enough–maybe with an audible snarl.
So I guess, with Galadriel’s speech, I just don’t have as much of a problem with it. Although it probably had a lot more “enhancing” than it really needed. It would’ve been cool if, still with “enhancing” but instead more gradual, *subtle* enhancing. Imagine: she starts the speech but everything still seems normal. As we focus in on Galadriel’s face, the environment darkens and shifts, but we don’t notice. About 2/3 through the speech, we cut to a wider shot and we have an inkling as to what “beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night” means.
Furry cows moo and decompress.
WyrdWyrd, you’re right that there are other instances of this kind of lapse in both taste and trust. Gandalf’s going all tall and thundery when speaking to Bilbo of the ring is another horrible example. But the Galadriel one is the worst because its so extreme that we can’t even hear what the words are. Which is ridiculous.
Bilbo’s lunge for the ring in Rivendell I felt worked as a very brief flash of insight into what was happening (and had already happened) in Bilbo’s heart. It’s also way more subtle than the other examples you mention.
Your restaging of the Galadriel’s speech sounds like a vast improvement.
I’m surprised that anyone’s main complaint about the films can be from FotR. It had problems, but I like it much better than the other two. Among other things, the ratio of fight scenes to everything else was reasonable in the first film. I’m not sure what you mean about flaws of ambition . . . most of them look like flaws of over-commercialization to me.
Have you ever read Bellatrys’ reviews of the films? She’s a bit harder on them than I was, but not much. She’s funny (“The Men of Minas Tirith couldn’t win a game of Capture the Flag, and neither could Mordor.”)
Beth, I mostly agree that Fellowship is the most consistent of the three films, and has the least to criticise. But it’s precisely because of this that the abrupt Galadriel foul-up sticks out so visibly.
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I agree, the negative image & degree of voice warping was overdone. But I believe what Frodo was describing is a “glamour.” The Fay were described as being able to create a glamour, or magical illusion. This could make the fay appear in any way they wanted the humans to view them… Gandalf uses a glamour as well when his voice booms, he seems to grow taller, and the space about him appears to shrink & grow dark. Tolkien was very much inspired by mythology, so I believe that is what this scene with Galadriel is describing.
I’m sure you’re right; but I’m also sure that Frodo would not have perceived Galadriel under her glamour as anything resembling what we were shown in the film.
It’s one of my favourite moments of the LOTR films – although, on saying that, I do have a lot of them! It’s pretty close and you have to give the director some space to interpret the book in his way. You can’t possibly translate the whole the book verbatim – it would take far longer than the 10+ hours it was squeezed into.
I disagree with your reading of the second paragraph. While I will concede that the use of the word “seeming” gives some credence to your interpretation that she is not literally growing, that “seeming” is the only leg you have to stand on in your argument. The sentence immediately prior to that has says: “She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark”. To interpret that as a metaphor is a stretch, and to label it an obvious one is just not true at all. In fact, I would say that is ‘obviously’ a literal magic light coming out of her magic ring. If that line (further supported by how lowering the ring ends the light show) is supposed to be a metaphor countless lines concerning magic or fantastical elements throughout Tolkien’s writings must be second guessed for whether they are supposed to be taken literally.
SO, I don’t feel that Jackson’s interpretation of the scene is near as bad as you make out.
in the books, Tolkien uses “seem” all the time when referring to magical effects, giving them an air of semi-illusion, where you can tell what you’re seeing may not be quite real or partially in your mind. this is not the only place where the book is subtle, and the book is explicit. other examples include the worms/insects that appear when the hobbits are near the nine riders, the dragon firework, the “possession” and “exorcism” of Theoden, the one ring changing size and weight, and probably others that I’ve forgotten.
I heartily agree with your thoughts on that scene, and feel too that it overshadowed a very good and important speech. However, the thing that bothered me most about it was how unsure or surprised Blanchett-Galadriel was when she said, “I pass the test”. I’ve always felt the character spoke those words with more resignation, knowing that as an Elf, her time (and that of her people) is coming to an end in Middle Earth.
Anyhow, great article, I enjoyed reading it.
Thanks, Supervike. I actually really like Blanchett’s delivery of “I pass the test”. I guess it shows that there are several different ways it can be read, each of them implying something subtly different about Galadriel’s attitude, her future and even her past. The writing is very rich.
This is not the only time PJ took something literaly that is(probably) not meant to be.. The best example: the great eye. While in the books the eye is allways a vision and a metaphor for Sauron having many spies and seeing everything, in the movies he put a real eye on a tower, wich seems to make no sense, because why would Sauron, after loosing his body take on the form of an eye? And how would he do it, he was the most powerfull maiar, but i do not think he would have been able to transform his ghostly form into a gigantic eye.
I do agree that Tolkien probably didn’t have in mind anything like the flaming eye of the movies. On the other hand, he did have the luxury of working in a medium where he didn’t have to depict post-Second-Age Sauron at all — he was able to use all words and no visuals. Jackson, being a film-maker, had to come up with something to represent Sauron, and I’m not sure what else he could have done. Did you have an alternative idea?
Just a perspective and suggestion. Take a look at the 1978 film. Galadriel was portrayed in the same manner as the latest movie.
I rewatched the Ralph Bakshi movie recently. I thought its portrayal of Galadriel was awful. Blanchett is, on the whole, superb in the role. It’s only that one scene that goes horrible wrong.
Gandalf at Edoras gets exactly the same treatment–the reasoned encouragement of Theoden to resume his responsiblities (with a little magical son-et-lumiere) turned into a “Dispel Magic” spell.
It’s true that the Theoden transformation is also significantly changed from what’s in the books, and that aspects of the film version are muffed — notably, the way Theoden’s beard inexplicably shortens as he emerges from Saruman’s influence. That said, though, I find it much easier to forgive this change, because at least it’s comprehensible (where Galadriel’s speech is virtually impossible to parse) and, crucially, because I find it very moving. Essentially, it’s a physical and visible manifestation of Theoden’s inner change — which is arguably the only way to approach something like this cinematically.
The speech warping was a bit too much, and it could have been better done, but I think it was great, because this is one of the few scenes were you really see how powerful she actually is, how terrible and out of this world an ancient being like her is.
@Supervike – you are forgetting that she was not permitted to sail West, and her “passing the test” is one of the reasons that Valar did give her permit.
Hmmm, interesting thoughts and well written but just reading it, I can’t help but be amused at the random things that perplex us and put bees under our bonnets. Irrespective of whether one resonates with it or not, could it not seem clear that this scene has been presented precisely from Frodo’s point of view, packaging his emotional and visceral response into the experience we receive sitting in the comfort of our theatre seats. It’s perhaps not meant to be viewed and measured literally but rather experienced, in Frodo’s moment of witnessing an elf queen of the first days, the kin of Feanor, at the height of her three thousand year old passion. An understandable directorial decision I think. I guess we all have our little issues with the interpretation but if this is the most noteworthy, Jackson has performed a miracle.
Well, I agree with your last sentence. But I still think this was a truly horrible miscalculation.
After seeing the travesty of the Hobbit films, I think we should count ourselves lucky that the movies were as good as they were. I’m re-reading the book and, when I got to the Tom Bombadil portion I realized how truly wretched that would have been if Jackson had attempted to add that to the movie. The Hobbit has destroyed what Jackson managed to achieve in LOTR, namely the humanization of the Hobbits and the Dwarf. They weren’t corny or cheesy in LOTR, but the Hobbit movie seemed to really be aiming at children with their depictions. I haven’t had the heart to watch the last movie. I think we should all just hold the book very dear to our hearts and realize that some things are never going to make it as far as a movie version goes.
I have to say, with the benefit of some more perspective, I feel more and more disappointed by the Hobbit movies. Whatever details the LotR movies muffed, they always had their heart in the right place. That just isn’t true of the newer trilogy. It speaks volumes that, while we got the Extended Edition of Desolation for Christmas, we have still not watched it nearly ten months later.
I just the Battle of the Five Armies…Extended Edition, and Cate delivers her lines so aristocratic, confident, and dangerous, that the entire scene with her and Sauron, and she glowing like a horror movie was totally unnecessary….badly done that part, but the EE were good when she destroyed that ORC!
How on earth Galadlier’s speech was ruined? Do you know how long that movie would’ve taken if the whole speech had been there?
In the manner described by the post.
Jackson’s rewritten speech is 37 words long, compared with 74 in the original — exactly half as long. So the film’s length would have been another 20 seconds or so had he used the original.
I agree, badly done! But can I ask a question – how would you have done it if you were the director? I think the digital voice didn’t work, and the photo negative effect was poor, but on the right track if that makes sense. IOW inflating her into a dream like apparition was a good effect, just imho badly executed.
I’d have done it the same way they did Gandalf’s “Many that live deserve death” speech: by hiring a world-class actor, and trusting them to do the job. For Galadriel’s speech, they did the first half of this (as the rest of her performance shows), but muffed the second half. Basically, a failure of trust.
Wait you ignored the fact that it says a “great light issued from her ring” that shone upon her in an unnatural and entirely magical way that made her seem so. Come on.
I do not believe the text says that the great light converted her into a photographic negative.
I agree the effects might have been overdone, but I disagree with your interpretation of the text. Where Tolkien writes: “She stood before Frodo seeming now tall beyond measurement, and beautiful beyond enduring, terrible and worshipful.” I take that to mean that she stood tall, seemingly beyond measurement. Not that she didn’t actually transform, but that the extent to which she transformed was so great that it was seemingly beyond measurement. It all depends upon how you distribute the word “seemingly” in the sentence.
But hasn’t Tolkien already distributed the word for us? So everything after “she stood before Frodo” is how it seemed?
I think they could have done better, too but what annoys me way more is that they cut out the whole part with the old forest and Tom Bombadil. It was such a great part in the book and also gave explanations even if it also made up never answered questions about Tom. But that made this World so interesting and it is really bad that they didn’t show any of that.
Well, gilli, your opinion is valid of course; but I have to note that it’s not necessarily a very common one. A lot of people were quite happy for Tom Bombadil to be dropped. And, really, it’s hard to imagine how he could have worked on scren.
I loved the Bakshi version of that scene.
I don’t remember it.
wow, so much bitching about less than 45 seconds of movie… that being said, i LIKED the lightshow that goes with galadriel’s speech in the film. her dark and light sides are at war within her over being offered the One that she could wield in addition to her 1 of 3. so light and darkness, good and evil intentions, positive and negative, craving vs. abstention, desire vs. apathy are conflicting within her. so why not a visual representation of that massive internal struggle fueled by magic rings and her own nature that perhaps only frodo can see?
“Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”
Thank you, By the way, I agree. There is nothing beautiful or regal about her appearance in the film, from my reading, I think more Evil Queen from Snow White and less Queen of the Dead. Also, her speech is completely unlistenable as if listening to a cassete that laid out in the sun too long..
I agree in a since … really I just feel like it should have been brought down a lot. They tried too hard, but I like the thought process of it.
Actually that and the part in dol guldur in hobbit are two best Galadriel parts in the movies. She was proud, dangerous and powerful.
The use of visual effect in this scene always made sense to me and always seemed to me to have full intention to convey seemingness not actuality. Never thought of it any other way until I happened across this blog today.
I think it worked for other people who have seen the film, may I remind you that there are people who tends to understand it more when presented visually. I respect your opinion, but what done is done. All shall love the movie and despair
“All shall love the movie and despair.”
Get the torches and pitchforks ready because the heretic is about to speak.
First and foremost, I do enjoy Tolkien’s works. No joke, were I trapped on a desert island with only one book to read it would be the Hobbit. I love the man’s world building, his attention to detail, and for all the purple prose every part of Middle Earth feels like a living, breathing thing with its own internal logic, goals, and desires.
That said, the man doesn’t write characters very well.
Admittedly it’s been a while since I cracked LotR but much like Dune and Foundation, I remember walking away from it liking the story but having a hard time remembering the characters themselves. Outside of main protagonists very little is given to the supporting cast to distinguish them or make them memorable outside of “go here and do this” and maybe an odd quirk or too. Bombur is fat, Merry and Pippin are cousins, Legalos and Gimli are racist (No joke. Most of their character arcs in the book involve them getting over their preconceived of each other. The villains aren’t much better either. Most fall into the “Why are the evil? Because they do evil things. Why do they do evil things? Because they are evil.” trap. Saruman gets more development than any of them really because it’s HINTED that he’s only throwing his lot in with Sauron because he hopes to one day supplant him.
In that regard one of Jackson’s strengths in the films was fleshing out all these characters and making them…well, characters. Pippen and Merry are the comic relief, but show surprising cunning and emotion when things get serious. Boromir and Faramir are shown to be an a “daddy loves you more” relationship with their father. Aragorn is actually conflicted about potentially taking up the crown of Gondor. Elrond is shown to be nursing some very deep hurt over Isildor’s betrayal thus has a pessimistic outlook on trusting humans to do the right thing. These aren’t just arch types, they are flesh and blood people we can empathize with, root for, or feel with.
Galadriel is, in the book, little more than stopover in the larger quest. A female version of Elrond’s appearance in the Hobbit. Her “ring test” seems to come and go very quickly with no seeming impact on her or the story. Yet Jackson managed to take that one scene and infuse it with some real pathos. Elves are often presented as carefree or aloof, their long lives giving them a rather detached view of things. But in that scene we see Galadriel DOES have some desires, some dreams. It isn’t that she is tempted by the ring, but rather wouldn’t mind being tempted.
The idea of reigning as Queen of all, her will law and her power unquestioned isn’t as distasteful as her usual cool and collected exterior would indicate, . There is indeed a seed of darkness in her and thus her momentary transformation and “love me and despair” monologue. And the filter effects and reverb voice give visual reference to that, show us and Frodo just how terrifying her having the One Ring would be, not just for what it would give her but for what she would bring to it. When she comes down it’s a breath of relief to not only Frodo and the audience but it seems to herself, that she has faced the mirror, seen into her own heart, and accepted a part of her she might have kept so long hidden.
And in a subtle way it reminds us that for all the crystal spires and togas that have become their hat in modern interpretations “Elves” started out as creatures of at best petty mischief and at worst bowel evacuating horror. That they were otherworldly, scary, and could be right bastards if the mood hit them and that at their core the Elves of Middle Earth still might have that undercurrent in them.
Now I’ll agree that even with what it brings the scene does feel a little short and Blanchet…I dunno. She’s not a bad bad actress by any stretch of the imagination but she does feel a bit like she’s on a leash or can’t quite get her footing with the character. Still, while the scene probably could have been better I’d argue it was handled poorly.
But hey, that’s just my take on it. *drops two cents into the cup.*
Thanks for that, Malcolm — I’d agree with almost all of it. and it’s very well put. It’s true that Jackson had to do something to flesh out the characters, and in many cases what he does works very well. But of course that makes the occasional lapses all the more inexplicable. The elves’ capacity for darkness is very apparent all through The Silmarillion — you could almost say it’s that collection’s principal theme — and it’s good that the films hint at that. But still: all of that could and should have been conveyed through acting, not visual-negative effects and ring modulators.
Perhaps. I mean – I get your point. Her speech and the tone are enough in the book. But I think you might be questioning the judgement of someone who apparently has great taste for the rest of the films (as you point out). All the ‘sweetening’ effects you see aren’t pleased with are post-production effects, which means that Jackson and his entire team (likely including Fran Walsh) all saw her performance on film multiple times – and then the decision was made to ‘enhance’ things. Not a decision I would imagine them taking lightly. So, although I wouldn’t want to question Cate’s abilities per se, perhaps the team failed to capture her performance quite the way they hoped to. Just a thought.
Absolutely, I am questioning the judgement of someone who has great taste for (most of) the rest of the films! That’s precisely why this, and a few other errors of judgement, stand out so strikingly. If the LotR films weren’t otherwise so wonderful, I wouldn’t even be bothering to comment on this lapse.
It would be really interesting, though, to see Blanchett’s pre-postproduction performance.
When I watched that, I was expecting more from that scene too. I too thought it was…. lacking. But Care can pull off anything 🖤
I disagree. I love the way she was depicted. It made me feel the power behind her, pushing through her, sifting, purifying her. I think it was excellent.
Well, I’m glad it worked for you.
The important thing to remember is these films were made for two groups of people; those who had read the books, and those who hadn’t. I think Jackson and Co. did the best they could with the time and funding they had. You couldn’t have asked for a better trilogy of films. They still hold up 15 years later.
I think Jackson showcases the internal conflict she feels with that interpretation.
Sorry, you’re wrong. It was brilliantly done. The new words are more succinct, they cut to the chase because a movie can only be so long. Most importantly, they capture the essence. The film effects worked exceptionally well. When I saw her that way, I could feel the reserve and depths of ancient power that the elves, makers of things, can tap into. I loved her and despaired. It was one of the best scenes in the series. I urge you to recognize the brilliance, love her and despair.
As films, Jackson’s LOTR series is absolutely fantastic. As recreations of the novels, Jackson delivered a full on Hollywood-ized botch job. Particularly in his handling of Merry and Pippin in their adventures with Treebeard (a perfect reversal of actual vs metaphor), and their return to the Shire, which COMPLETED the heroes journey and was entirely ignored by Jackweed.
Well, I can’t agree. Even allowing for some horrible mis-steps (not least the handling of Galadriel’s speech as criticised in this post), I think Jackson did a stellar job of digging out the heart of the books within the constraints of what any studio funding the films would have required. Would I change things about them? Sure, and I don’t doubt Jackson would, too. Could anyone else have done better, or even nearly as well? I highly doubt it.
Yes, but look at it in light of The Dark Elf tradition – she *is* Beautiful/Terrible, Terrible/Beautiful, as Jackson represents Her in The Battle of The Five Armies, with the fury of her Terrible aspect the only Force powerful enough to exorcise Sauron AND all nine of the Nazgul from Bârad-Dur and force him to to retreat into The East, behind the walls of Mordor.
She’s Filthy and She’s Gorgeous – all women are.
Why doesn’t The Future exist yet?
Because Women are unpredictable.
Women are different people on different days in the month. That’s why there may be 7 ages of Man, but there are only 3 ages of Womanhood- Before, During and After.
“Luke Skywalker:” Absolutely Galadriel is both beautiful and terrible — something that Tolkien’s text makes abundantly clear. I have no problem at all with this tension. What I have a problem with is Jackson’s decision to represent the “terrible” aspect by photographic negative and ring modulation.
Your second comment on the edge of what I’ll allow on this blog — borderline mysogynistic. I’m assuming it’s meant as a joke, so I’m letting it past moderation; but please don’t let this become a recurring theme of your commenting.
“She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that illuminated her alone and left all else dark. ”
It doesn’t say that the light “seemed” to be issued. Tolkien overtly states that the lighting change literally happened before Frodo’s eyes. It was her qualities that subjectively changed, not the physical setting itself.
Jackson’s interpretation *is* literal, and while the voice modulation may have been a bit much, the rest of it isn’t as poorly done as you’d lead readers to believe.
Then I guess Jackson was working from an earlier draft, since recovered by Christopher Tolkien, that read “She lifted up her hand and from the ring that she wore there issued a great light that transformed her into a photographic negative and left all else dark and her voice went weird.”
I hear what you are saying but this scene has a massive impact on the audience- in my experience anyway. I will never forget the terror of a nightmare I had in which i saw Galadriel as she was during that speech. I think that the audience seeing Galadriel from Frodos perspective created an event that would have been very difficult to conjure if we didn’t have those massive visual effects.
Interesting, Glen. It’s hard to argue with a subjectively felt experience that powerful.
I’ve always believed the movie scene in question, of the temptation of Galadriel, is on the level of the mind, related to her use of telepathy. As we know, she uses this often in the movies.
Celeborn, Galadriel, Gandalf, and Elrond often communicated in this way:
“Often long after the hobbits were wrapped in sleep they would sit together under the stars, recalling the ages that were gone and all their joys and labours in the world, or holding council, concerning the days to come. If any wanderer had chanced to pass, little would he have seen or heard, and it would have seemed to him only that he saw grey figures, carved in stone, memorials of forgotten things now lost in unpeopled lands. For they did not move or speak with mouth, looking from mind to mind, and only their shining eyes stirred and kindled as their thoughts went to and fro.”
This was the intention I believed PJ had when I saw the movie. It would be happening on a subconscious level, not literally, so the same transformation would not be seen by others if they were standing nearby. They would have simply seen the light from her ring, though I believe even that would have been hidden to others if Galadriel chose it to be.
I think it is the same in those similar scenes with Gandalf and Bilbo. A ringbearer’s intuition may also be helpful in this regard, they may perceive things on another level which ordinary folk might not.
There is much I would modify with PJ’s movies, but so much I love too! Would I change the “temptation of Galadriel” scene? I’m not sure. Maybe. There are many others which irk me far more!
Thank goodness we have both the movies and the books :)
You are incorrect. The book clearly states that she was illuminated By the Light of the ring and all else around her turned dark. Which is exactly what happens in the movie. You are reinterpreting the novel to something that it is not. Yes her seeming to be tall beyond belief and beautiful was Frodo’s observation. You will know in the movie she didn’t suddenly becomes super tall and beautiful she just became illuminated with all else turning dark exactly as the descriptive part of that paragraph States.
I must have missed the part of the book where Tolkien explains that Galadriel went into photographic negative and her voice was affected by a ring modulator.
The thing with this particular speech and accompanying visual is that the translation from the written word to the screen is often difficult—especially when the written word is “pre-televisually” articulate.
In the original, Galadriel *seems* as the author points out to become far more than she is, a force of nature, Tall, enormous, insurmountable, unstoppable, so beautiful that to gaze at her causes pain.
She appears this way because some manifestation of magic gives Frodo a glimpse into the future she would create by taking and using the ring.
In a book, written for people who had or would read Shakespeare words are expected. In a movie, images are the thing and they require translation. interestingly enough, the description of Galadrial’s transformation in the image seem appropriate considering the source material.
The words, “and left all else dark” fits with a situation where Galadriel and only Galadriel shines with light, creating a lighting scheme that would wash out all colors just as a too bright light washes them out.
None of this is changed by Gandalf’s lack of tranformation: his “face of fire” is metaphorical; it is the exciting version of the words, “his face showed his excitement and fear at the prospect of receiving the ring and knowing that the temptation to use it and be corrupted by it would too great.
I admire the poster’s attention to detail but I cannot agree with the conclusion he derives from it.
I have to disagree with the blogger’s assessment here (and agree with the dissenting voices above, here and there) — Jackson’s visual translation was absolutely spot-on. If anything, it was an appropriate improvement on the source material (unlike certain other choices that should be left for a different conversation… ;) ) as it visually showed the immense mystical power she possessed/channeled as well as how, within the context of the film-as-presented, she would be if she did indeed take the one ring — the channeling of Sauron’s will/soul which would at minimum partially corrupt her (as visually evidenced by the distortion of her features, the over-lapping of his “voice” (will) over hers, the “revelation” of “armor” beneath her white attire, etc.). The shortening/concise-shift in dialogue was similarly spot-on for movie-rendering as it more directly conveyed the essential meaning of what might happen to her if she did take the ring without becoming too wordy. (Sidenote: I saw it several times in different places with different audiences — every viewing I saw had the audience being appropriately “wow’d” by that moment; similarly, I could understand every word she said, so I’m not sure why it wasn’t as readily intelligible to the blogger… >shrugs< )
As noted in one or more posts above, while it's good to be faithful to the source material it's equally important to understand how the shift in medium can-and-should result in different degrees of interpretation/translation. If, for example, this hadn't been a movie trilogy but rather a limited television (or, adjusted for today, likely a streaming series via Netflix, et al), and had 13+ full hour episodes, then having certain aspects of dialogue and narrative pacing be a bit longer would be fine. But even for long-format movies like LotR, cutting/adjusting here-and-there is essential. And as also noted there is the shift in presentation due to the visual concepts/effects available in 2001+ that weren't as readily conceptualized/executed in one's mind decades/centuries before. (I have no doubt that if Tolkein saw the visual grandeur of that moment, he all-but-certainly would have gone "Oh — well… yes — that certainly drives it home, doesn't it…!" — or something equally English in tone… ;) )
In any case, I'm sorry that moment fell short for you. For many other viewers it was a powerful moment and rendered quite well.
Well, I’m glad that it worked so well for you, tideoftime — and evidently for plenty of other people. And of course I agree with you on the cuts to the wording and the general principle that film is not the same medium as book, and judging a film adaptation by textual fidelity is a fool’s game.
Still, with all that said, I find that scene very heavy-handed and ill-judged. I have quite possibly watched Fellowship into double figures by now, and I’ve never seen Galadriel’s transformation without thinking it represents a terrible lack of faith in Blanchett’s ability to actually act the moment. The purpose of effects must be to complement acting, not to drown it out.
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ah man, she was great in that scene, my favourite
DISAGREE! That scene was epic. One of the most powerful in all the films.
I love that scene! When I read LOTR I become a believing child who is fascinated by a magic world. My imagination flares & visualizes these things… so when I watch the visual representation there has to be magic & flares at certain times – not just good acting. If there had been no magic in that moment it would have been…disappointing. There HAD to be a strong visual and audible manifestation of her power. My only complaint is that I couldn’t hear every word towards the end of the sentence – so I agree in part – it was SLIGHTLY overdone… BUT even tho I couldn’t hear every word I was still BLOWN AWAY by her magical power & that was PJs goal. It was similar to other times in the films, as mentioned by others – Bilbo’s evil face when he snatched at the ring etc & when Gandalf reappears in the forest to Aragorn, Legolas & Gimli – he was transformed & literally illuminated with magic power! That magic cant be just acted for us to imagine like in a book – it HAS to be SHOWN & HEARD on screen!
Completely agree. PJ should have left Cate alone. That speech (‘beautiful…all shall love me and despair’) needed to be delivered in her own sexy voice. Having her sound like she’s talking through a vocoder negates the aura of fatal beauty/attraction that that scene needs.
A bit late, but… the book scenes were often a bit theatrical, in that they clearly described scenes in terms of Victorian or early twentieth century stage drama. A good Shakespearean actor should be able to go from wizened old man to strong middle-aged warrior, as in Theoden’s exorcism, without special effects. Same thing for Bilbo’s madness. And the same goes for a Shakespearean actress playing Galadriel, who should be able to call up her charisma without special effects, and with nothing but physical lighting aids to produce “all shall love me and despair” spotlighting.
The fact that Jackson didn’t figure this out was part of his film/horror prejudices. Victorian drama was extremely big on actors “transforming” on stage in the middle of scenes, with or without quick makeup or costume changes.
McKellen was better able to force this point than the younger actors, so he got to do his scene himself.
It is the one of the worst scenes in the trilogy, and there are more than a few. The “lean into it” physics of Frodo and Aragorn in Moria comes to mind, as do others.
I just found this and i have to say i wholeheartedly disagree.
The ring was a ring of power. It had the power to prolong life, to make people invisible, and when it collides with the literal light of of the two trees, which is essentially what remains of the light of creation, you can expect some metaphysical stuff to go down. And since film is a visual medium the only way to depict that is through special effects.
In the hobbit movies the sauron.gif is always ridiculed, but it is a great visual representation of falling ever inward and dimensionless nothing being in a physical form.
The same is true here. Being light and dark at the same time, gives the impression of so bright that it appears dark, and her clothes and face being in a negative overexposed, makes it seem like she is still beautiful but terrible to behold.
Also do not forget that we are seeing the whole scene out of Frodo’s perspective. What “seems” grand to him also seems grand to us.
Also note that during the whole process the actress wasn’t becoming taller, or CGId to be looming over frodo, pose and perspective were used to achieve this impression, keeping the scene even closer to the original. You can see this best when she ‘shrinks’ back, because she’s not actually shrinking, only the perspective and light is changing.
It’s honestly one of the best adapted scenes i have seen in any movie adaptation.
And it is possibly my favorite scene in all of the movies.
Well, PoofyGummy, I am glad you enjoyed it!
How does the light of the two trees come into this, though? Wasn’t that preserved only in the silmarils? Galadriel doesn’t possess one of those.
(She does have one of the three elven rings, but then so does Gandalf, and we don’t see effects like this when Frodo meets him — only the brief “Do not tempt me” moment. And Elrond has the third, and we never see anything remotely similar with him.)
Totally agree with this. I loved the changes to her speech but hated the pantomime garb and delivery. She could have delivered and trusted the audience to understand the gravity of the scene.
The silmarils have been transferred to the sky, sea, and land, true. But the pool of water there held the light of “the star of ëarendil” – the silmaril. In essence while she may not have the silmaril she literally has its light and power in liquid form. That’s why that vial of water Frodo had shines so much. lol
She was also one of the few elves who were originally directly exposed to the two trees.
The same is true for the completely new scene in the Hobbit.
She is literally carrying around the closest thing to a silmaril in middle earth in her vial, and she had been around the thing that gave the silmarils their power in her youth.
None of these is true for Gandalf, so there’s all reason for her to be a lot more amazing than him.
I agree with you about the art part but I don’t agree about Jackson’s mistake. The movie is planed for the average Joe who needs graphic enhancement partly because he/she never reads books (even on his tablet).
I loved it and it’s one of my favorite scenes in the movie. The movie speech is an improvement over the book, as it pacts more of a punch in terror, which is the ultimate end if she takes the ring. She would essentially become Sauron, so it’s an eerie peer into the future. Also, the movie has to “teach” people just how bad the ring is.