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Re: Less Forbidden Romance Than Promised

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  • Michael Martinez
    Some reformatting for my sanity has occurred. ... I wonder. If someone were to do the story of Beren and Luthien, how much romance would be appropriate, and
    Message 1 of 5 , Apr 27, 2005
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      Some reformatting for my sanity has occurred.

      --- In mythsoc@yahoogroups.com, David Lenander <d-lena@u...> wrote:
      > On Apr 21, 2005, at 6:53 AM, David Bratan wrote:
      > And Janet Croft wrote:
      > >> Director Peter Jackson added scenes with Liv Tyler's elvin
      > >> princess, exploring her forbidden romance with human warrior
      > >> Aragorn in ways the J.R.R. Tolkien books never did."
      > >
      > > They certainly didn't.
      > >
      > > But doesn't that phrasing seem to promise a lot more than
      > > we actually got?
      >
      > Let us be thankful that it's all we actually got....

      I wonder. If someone were to do the story of Beren and Luthien, how
      much romance would be appropriate, and how much war?

      And should it have a historical epic feel to it?

      Personally, I don't like movies which don't treat their subject
      matter seriously. "Sin City" is good because the lead characters
      have real feelings, conflicts, and motivations in a surreal world --
      which is well represented by the black-and-white and mono-color
      effects.

      The Christopher Reeve Superman movies lost their pizzazz because the
      film-makers didn't take the character and his story seriously. They
      made everyone but Superman look goofy.

      I think a Tolkien story translates best when it looks and feels like
      people are acting naturally. One of the best scene in Jackson's
      films is that controversial discussion Gandalf has with Frodo in
      Moria. It's basically two guys sitting down to have a heart-to-heart
      moment without all the let's-revel-in-this-special-effect celebration
      that permeates following scenes (especially with the Cave Troll and
      the Balrog).

      Another good scene was when Theoden (Bernard Hill) recited the "Ride
      of Eorl". He could have played that scene way over the top (like
      anything with John Noble as Denethor) but it was well-done, in my
      opinion.

      Both scenes stepped out of Tolkien's story and into their own story.
      Peter was stealing dialogue from other parts of the literary story to
      tell his own story. He wasn't trying to be faithful to Tolkien, he
      was trying to be faithful to his vision of those characters'
      motivations.

      So, if anyone were to translate "Beren and Luthien" to the big
      screen, which would be more important: the love between the two
      characters and their conflicts, or the historical drama surrounding
      their story?

      To me, it would be too stiff and over-the-top if it dwelt entirely on
      Beren and Luthien (just plain boring). But if it tried to wallow in
      a "This is fantasy" setting, it would probably be as bad as "Superman
      III" or "Superman IV". "Superman II" was sort of acceptable, but
      Gene Hackman as Lex Luthor was a much better over-the-top villain in
      the first Reeve movie.

      Dirty-fingernail-realism won't work, either, because it doesn't work
      with historical movies (at least, not for me). I want the story to
      be surreal and gigantic, larger than life. The audience needs to
      feel like everything important is happening right here, right now.

      "Saving Private Ryan" used a great transition from D-Day to the
      private story of Tom Hanks' character. We started out with a larger-
      than-life scene grounded in real history and moved into a cinematic
      story that took some liberties with history.

      People don't seem to object as much to the character-focused changes
      in storylines as they do to the event-focused changes.

      To put it another way, what if someone just did a movie about Aragorn
      and Arwen, and the War of the Ring only came into it occasionally?
      Why would that be so bad?

      It's okay to tell part of the story with history, but not with
      fantasy? That makes no sense to me.

      --
      Michael Martinez
      Author of Understanding Middle-earth, Parma Endorion, and Visualizing
      Middle-earth
      http://www.michael-martinez.com/
    • Croft, Janet B.
      Michael Martinez wrote: People don t seem to object as much to the character-focused changes in storylines as they do to the event-focused changes. I don t
      Message 2 of 5 , Apr 28, 2005
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        Michael Martinez wrote:
        People don't seem to object as much to the character-focused changes in storylines as they do to the event-focused changes.

        I don't know about that -- it's the changes of character that really bothered me. (And they are also what bothered Tolkien most in the Zimmerman script.) I could have handled Arwen coming upon Aragorn and the hobbits after the attack at Weathertop -- if it had been done in character. But would the Arwen we know from the books have drawn a sword on Aragorn, however playfully and however much she is supposed to put us in mind of her ancestor Luthien? The scene where we cut back and forth from Faramir's charge to Denethor's meal might have been effective for me if I could have pictured the Steward of Gondor so lacking in self-control as to gobble his food and allow juice to run down his chin. Unlikely from what we see of him in the book. And see Dan Timmon's essay in Tolkien on Film for an analysis of why film-Frodo doesn't convince as the one and only possible person meant to be the Ringbearer -- all because of the changes Jackson made to his character.

        On the other hand, Wormtongue's non-canonical scene with Éowyn at Theodred's deathbed worked pretty well for me because it seemed well within the character of each, and was a "show, don't tell" scene with a basis in what we later hear Gandalf say about her character.

        I'm not a fan-fiction expert, but from what I've read, "OOC" or "out of character" is one of the more stinging criticisms you can make, and the best fanfic is the kind that is plausible because you can imagine the original characters acting just the way they do in the story -- not because the plot is entirely plausible. I think Jackson's changes to the plot would have been more acceptable if the characters had been unaltered (though of course what happens to the characters affects their personality, so you can't stray too far).

        Janet Brennan Croft
      • Stolzi
        ... From: Croft, Janet B. On the other hand, Wormtongue s non-canonical scene with Éowyn at Theodred s deathbed worked pretty well for me
        Message 3 of 5 , Apr 28, 2005
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          ----- Original Message -----
          From: "Croft, Janet B." <jbcroft@...>


          On the other hand, Wormtongue's non-canonical scene with Éowyn at Theodred's
          deathbed worked pretty well for me because it seemed well within the
          character of each, and was a "show, don't tell" scene with a basis in what
          we later hear Gandalf say about her character.

          ---------------------------------------

          Similarly, for me, the scene with Aragorn and Eowyn, where they are
          blade-to-blade. It conveys dramatically - for me at least - the things
          Tolkien tells us by recounting Aragorn's musings when he looks upon her.
          In the movies, you can only do so much of "Character assumes thoughtful
          stare and we intuit his thoughts."

          Diamond Proudbrook
        • David Bratman
          ... Tolkien never wrote a completed, successful full-length version of Beren and Luthien, so on these questions I d be more willing to defer to a film-maker s
          Message 4 of 5 , Apr 28, 2005
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            At 02:15 AM 4/28/2005 +0000, Michael Martinez wrote:

            >I wonder. If someone were to do the story of Beren and Luthien, how
            >much romance would be appropriate, and how much war?
            >
            >And should it have a historical epic feel to it?

            Tolkien never wrote a completed, successful full-length version of Beren
            and Luthien, so on these questions I'd be more willing to defer to a
            film-maker's judgment and taste.


            [re: Gandalf and Frodo discussing Mercy; Theoden reciting Ride of Eorl]
            >Both scenes stepped out of Tolkien's story and into their own story.
            >Peter was stealing dialogue from other parts of the literary story to
            >tell his own story. He wasn't trying to be faithful to Tolkien, he
            >was trying to be faithful to his vision of those characters'
            >motivations.

            Those scenes struck me as extremely faithful to Tolkien - among the few
            bits of the films that were. They were recast and moved around as you say,
            but to my mind faithfulness does not mean "exact replication of the details
            of the plot." It means to convey the book's spirit. Here, and in a few
            other places, Jackson did so - increasing the heartbreak at viewing the
            many places where he did not.

            As Janet wrote, "Wormtongue's non-canonical scene with Éowyn at Theodred's
            deathbed worked pretty well for me because it seemed well within the
            character of each, and was a "show, don't tell" scene with a basis in what
            we later hear Gandalf say about her character." I agree, even though this
            scene was invented by Jackson to an extent which the two scenes you mention
            were not. It's all about being true to character.


            >To put it another way, what if someone just did a movie about Aragorn
            >and Arwen, and the War of the Ring only came into it occasionally?
            >Why would that be so bad?

            It wouldn't be bad if someone wrote a piece of fan-fiction about their
            romance - or no worse than any other piece of fan-fiction. The difference
            with movies is that they tend to claim to cover the whole book.


            >It's okay to tell part of the story with history, but not with
            >fantasy? That makes no sense to me.

            I read LOTR as having a historical air lacking in The Silmarillion, which
            has a mythological air instead. The separation doesn't bother me.


            >Does the requirement that
            >travelers in Rohan (at that time) speak Rohirric count as a
            >shibboleth?

            Don't see why it shouldn't.


            David Bratman
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