Monday, 23 November 2009

The Lord of the Rings-the Fellowship

12.00 My prologue added after the writing in much the same way as the prologue was added to the Lord of the Rings at the end of their creation. After a short period of hesitancy I decided to undertake the experience I have planned for several years, that is to watch the three extended versions of the Lord of Rings Films in one sitting with appropriate intervals and written commentary. I have the full dramatization broadcast by the BBC radio, the books and the theatre editions of the films. I also have three of the pewter goblets Frodo, the Ring Bearer, Gandalf the wise wizard, such I my appreciation for the original works and its translation into sound and then vision. It is a work which satisfies at every level of my experience and imagination because it can be enjoyed as a fantasy adventure and as struggle between the forces of light and dark in the universe within societies and the individual human being. The films as theatrical experiences are special because of the way the story has been brought to life in a believable reality achieved first because of the inclusion of major acting talent such as Sir Ian McKellen, Peter Cushing, Ian Holm, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Liv Tyler Viggo Mortensen and John Rhys Jones, with new talents Elijah Wood and Orlando Bloom with the most extraordinary of cinematography, music, make up and visual effects. The trilogy was nominated for 30 Oscars, winning 17, with the best picture for the final film recognised as a proxy for the series, where all 11 nominations won awards for the Return of the King. There was but one unsuccessful acting nomination but Visual Effect was awarded the Oscar for each of the three films. The three films were conceived and created over the course thirteen months 1999-2000 with 274 days of shooting using 150 locations in New Zealand and seven units as well sound stages in Wellington and Queenstown. Because the Hobbits had special feet and ear the actors were on stage no later than 5am for the two hours of make up which involved standing for over an hour while the feet set and then over an hour at the end of the day as the feet casts were unglued. What aggrieved one of the Hobbit actors is that on fifty of such days there was no actual inclusions of the feet in the scenes shot during the day. However what the average cinema goer never appreciates unless they stay for the credits in the number of component specialists involved in very scene so that one failure of a camera, a light, an actor being late or not ready can mean a hold up for several hours, costing tens of thousands of pounds. To do anything well in life let alone striving for perfection involves preparation, preparation, and preparation. When the actors had gone off to their restaurants, to relax or to prepare for the following day, Peter and the editing team would assemble with the film shot during the day, usually a half an hour task but in this instance for three to four hours. The films use real set creations such as Hobbit Ville, created in a hill side, and bigmintures, scale models bigger than usual in the greatest of detail to stand up to close and prolonged camera work. A major feature of all three films is the contrast between the size of Hobbits, Dwarves and Elves from four feet and smaller to the Men and other human size creatures. This was created in two ways. There were Physical frameworks so that the interior of Bag End Hobbit home was created adult size and Hobbit size with the Bree Pub created at Giant size and human size. There were then three heights of actors. Four feet actor stand ins, some experienced actors and others children who were shot in scenes with movement involving human sized actors, sometimes with synthetic faces made from the actors, to giant size figures created by a specialist actors wearing a special stilt outfits which enlarged the body in all dimensions. The actual shooting varied from traditional forced perspectives where the two actors are distance separated proportionate to the size difference required, to filming the same event two or more times, involving actors using the two differently sized sets and then brining them together. There was much blue screen shooting for the actors when the scene involved the miniatures and much computerised creations of monsters and especially of Gollum where every body part movement was recorded individually and then recreated on computer in the consistent form of the being. Because the Director wanted he atmosphere of the film to resemble an ancient time, Middle Earth, about eight to ten thousand years before now every shot was digitally worked on using colours and light effects to bring the images of the book into being as reality and not as a comic or cartoon and the music was created mope as an opera than a film score and when the shooting ended the work began to created for the theatre films work which would engage and move anyone without any knowledge of the books and audio series and not alienate the majority of those who ere familiar. Peter Cushing who knew the original author of the work had read the books once a year since and jumped at the opportunity to be involved in anyway. Such was the approach to the making of these films and the confidence of the studios and financiers to several million dollars, that there were subsequent shootings over the next three years until the three were released in theatre and then the DVD extended editions were worked on. This was not just adding deleted scenes but creating new scenes with new music scores integrated into the whole adding about half an hour to the original length of three hours. For the first film The Fellowship of the Ring half the original scenes are extended and there seven new ones and at the end the addition of a new credit sequence in which every member of the official fan club is listed! For me the great joy of the DVD’s is that there is not just one sound commentary but four, starting with the Director and writers and the last, that of the Actors, Thus if you wish you can watch the original films shown in theatre 3 hours x 3, the DVD versions 3 x 3.5 and then the commentaries 3 x 4 x 3.5 about 60 hours for the films and then the extras which amount to another twenty hours of visual and audio material and then as long as you want to take over the photos and paintings. They are a model and university for anyone wanting to have a life in the film making. It has the same philosophy as I have for contemporary visual and conceptual art.
13.00 The first film is underway accompanied by a glass of Grand Lescure 2006 Comte Tolosan in South West France, a collective of some 400 members today Cane de Fronton. This wine comes from Jean Paul Chanteraud is the wine maker with Jack Verdier, its Director, name after the English Officer parachuted into the family’s back garden during World War 2. The meal was roast chicken with stuffing, mini sausages and nine small pieces of roast potato.

14.30 the first part of the film, The Fellowship of the Ring has been re-experienced in which the history of the Ring Prologue is extended although as which much else in the films is an approach to the depth and integrity of story in the books. There has been much speculation about the meaning of this fantasy adventure with its forces of evils appearing to control the fortunes of creatures for long periods until the those of innocence and faith, with a love of life and human failings, but great heart, decide to confront where most turn away in fear or perish. Thousands of years ago in Middle Earth before the story of the work begins, the Dark Lord Sauron forged the Great Ring of power and which can only be destroyed within the fires from which it was created. The Ring carries the power of invincibility destroying and enslaving anyone who opposes the power of the wearer. However the Ring has a life of its own enslaving any other wearer to its forces, thus it is so with the use of any forces and the misuse of power which is not dedicated to the service of others. Sauron also had created sixteen other rings of lesser power subject to his overall control. Nine he gave to the Nine Kings of Men, human beings who were corrupted over time and become the undead or Ringwraiths, but some Men remained free and opposed to the rule of Sauron. Seven rings he gave to the dwarf Lords with three coming into the care of the Elves who came under siege from Sauron but with the help of the Men of Numenor they defeated Sauron and took him prisoner. There was then a comparative short period of some 100 years during which Sauron turns his captors against each other, until what became known as the Last Alliance of Elves and Men defeated Sauron’s armies in his land of Mordor. The One Ring was cut from the finger of Sauron whose spirit fled to recoup his strength. There was then opportunity to destroy the ring by taking it into Mount Doom the volcanic fire from which it was created. Alas it was not and eventually after a battle with the Orcs the ring was lost in the Great River Anduin for two thousand years. The Ring was then found by a Hobbit, Deagol but his friend and a relative Smeagol kills him for its possession and after fleeing to the Misty Mountains Smeagol turns into a loathsome slimy, treacherous creature called Gollum. Sometime later another Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, on an expedition adventure encounters Gollum’s cave, takes possession of the ring after finding that its wearer becomes invisible and ageless, but without understanding its significance. The three books of Lord of the Ring are themselves divided so that in total there are six, making the six parts of the three films. The story and the film opens as Bilbo Baggins is to retire to the Dwarf Kingdom of Rivendell to complete his autobiography and holds a great party with fireworks, alcohol, food and merry making at which his long time friend the wizard Gandalf join him and where the decision is taken to leave the Ring behind for Frodo his adopted heir. Gandalf having been shown the ring decided to investigate its significance (this in the book takes nearly two decades and his return coincides with the recovered Sauron having captured and tortured Gollum learning that it had been taken by Bilbo Baggins back to Hobbitland, so he commands the now undead former Kings of Men who go in pursuit. The films take a number of story shortcuts from the book even the extended editions and this has so upset the purists, that some have got together and created an eight hour version by deleting all the additional scenes or changed scenes from the book. In the first part of the first film Frodo is asked to take the Ring to Rivendell for its future safekeeping and to first meet up with Gandalf along the way at the village of Bree. Gandalf goes to consult the head of his order about the discovery, this is Sauruman, a more powerful wizard by Christopher Lee, only to discover that he has become an agent for Sauron, and is therefore able to temporarily imprison Gandalf during which time the Orcs, a race of underworld creatures and allies of Sauron uproot the great old oak trees of the forest in order to create new weapons and a new hybrid fighter with a view to assisting in re-conquering Middle earth land once the Ring is repossessed. The first film is about Frodo played by Elijah Wood, asked to take the ring to Rivendell, He is joined Samwise Gangee, in the film a simple but honest and loyal Hobbit Friend. And then by two other young Hobbits who in the film are drawn as carefree characters with at tendency to unintentionally cause mayhem and unleash dark force by their pranks (Pippen and Merry.) The four are rescued from the undead former Kings of Men at Bree by the lone searcher and defender (a character which I suspect was used in the space adventure series Babylon Five) and which in the Lord of the Rings becomes Aragorn, the deliverer, played at short notice by Viggo Mortensen. These Five manage to make their way to Rivendell although Frodo appears to be mortally wounded at one point but is rescued by Arwen the daughter of the Elf Lord Elrond, and she is also the lover of Aragon although they are rarely together. As Frodo recovers in Rivendell he finds that Gandalf has also come there apologising for his failure to meet at Bree and explained what happened to him. The decision is taken to call a meeting of all the interests threatened by the re-emergence of Sauron when it is decided that the Ring has to be destroyed and cannot be kept in Rivendell as the Elves are moving on. As a consequence the Fellowship is formed to accompany Frodo and includes the Prince Elf Legolas, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys Davies as a Dwarf Gimli who dislikes Elves and Sean bean as Boromir a prince of the Stewards of Gondor, each with their own backstory.

15.30 A change of plan from first experiencing the three films in day. I realised that there was a programme I wished to see this evening a new Sky One Terry Prachett, the Colour of Magic then there is the opportunity to view the next episode of Lost on its release date and then the cricket where the continuation England’s Innings is crucial if they are to win the Test series. I also decided that I wanted to go through each special edition in their entirely, which is major undertaking as there are not one but four complete audio commentaries so that if you with you can view each film five times, six if you begin with the cinema edition, then the extended version, the Director and writers commentary, the design team, the production and post production and finally the cast. As the theatre film lasts three hours and the special edition another half hour, this will take over 20 hours for this part of the special features by which time you should have a good idea of how the film was made and why various decisions were taken and which serves to draw attention to the limitations and inadequacy of some many other DVD’s including special editions.

17.00 The second part of the first film involves the journey of the Fellowship to Mordor where they are forced to go underground into the Mines of Mori as their journey over the Mountain Caradhas is stopped by Sauruman. However their passage through the mines is held up by confrontation with the Orcs and a Troll and then as they are about to escape they are challenged by a kind devil, an enveloping being of fire and darkness which was very similar to my recollection of the waking dream devil demon which I experienced in childhood when I was ill and which has remained a vivid memory. Gandalf appears to perish stopping the demon as the other escape. They find shelter at the elvish realm of Lothorien where the rulers Galadriel Cate Blanchett and partner Celeborn help prepare them for the trials ahead, giving them gifts of use in their quest. Arriving at the Parth Galen having travelled the river Anduin Borodin seeks the Ring for himself believing this is the way to protect his Kingdom but Frodo seizes it back reaching some enlightenment that he must complete the task on his own, leaving Sam for a time, but he later reunites and they set off together, Meanwhile the others minus Gandalf become involved in a fight to death, which sees the end of Boromir and capture of Pippin and Merry. Faced with the breaking up of the Fellowship Aragon showing his natural leadership leads Legolas and Gimli to rescue Pippin and Merry. The first film ends here. There are seven additional scenes in the extended version Concerning Hobbits at the beginning after the extended Prologue, At the Green Dragon Inn, The Passing of Elves, the Midgewater Marshes, Gilraen’s Memorial, the Departure of the Fellowship, and a list of everyone in the official fan club as final credits. Half of the original scenes are extended, some substantially. The film has grandeur of landscape and a transcendent beauty which is significantly enhanced by the evocative score created by Howard Shore and with two original songs Aieon and May it Be which was sung by Enya. The four academy awards achieved of the 13 nomination were for Music, Cinematography, Visual Effects and Make up. White it was given a Bafta for best film and for Direction. It was an expensive film to make around $100 million but grossed over eight times making it one of the top ten grossing movies worldwide. I watched it in theatre one evening in a packed cinema, fearing the experience would spoilt by a very noisy audience, but within moments there was a shared silence as everyone became engrossed with a sense of awe responding to the some of the more emotional moments with, especially when the Fellowship having bonded with each other and the audience is broken up. Even with the extended edition liberties are taken with the epic nature of the book in terms of time. The seven year backstory siege becomes one battle and the seventeen year search for the origin of the Ring by Gandalf is compressed while the preparations for commencing his journey appears to occur in one day, whereas in eh books it is a matter of months. One positive change is that the Director decided that the characters should evolve rather than remain evolved as they tend to do in the books. There was one link which I was only reminded of when watching the film again is that the Hobbit Ville reminded me of TeleTubbieland.

At 18.00 I watched Sir David Jason in his new role in the bringing to television of the Colour of Magic. This is a three hour adaptation shown over two evenings This is the first the Discworld series of books but the second Sky shown work, with The Hogfather last year. This work is made up of chapters which form mini stories, The work features Rincewind the trainee Wizard at the University of the Unseen, expelled because he has failed to complete level 1 after 40 years. After his departure he encounters Twoflower a tourist from a small nation which underpins the great nations and which reputedly full of gold, a point well made when the tourist attempts to pay with currency from him his country which the is found to be pure gold compared to the theoretical gold coins of the currency. Sir David is offered the job of guide for two of these coins a day and is given four days upfront whereupon he attempts to leave the city with his wealth, but is held and required to fulfil his task and ensure that the tourist comes to no harm. Meanwhile the sub plot involves Tim Curry as the villain after replacing the University head and behind the departure of Sir Davis who he fears will get in the way of his bid for power, Christopher Lee plays the voice death adopting a voice which is strongly reminiscent of the depressed electronic help in the Hitcher Hikes Guide to the Galaxy "Marvin" Jeremy Iron plays the Patrician. I have no idea how far the TV production follows the book but it was splendid Bank holiday fun

I had a tin of sardines with crackers for tea and a salami salad with olives and banana around 19.00. Around 21.00 a bowl of light cereal but this was not enough so at 22.30 a cheese sandwich and coffee.
The new experience of significance on the day is the pre Spring break episode of Lost which centre on the return of Michael who has made it home with his son but is tormented by having had to commit two murders to free his son and is now instructed to destroy the freighter as the means of saving the other survivors of the plane crash and redeem himself in this way. However Sayid does not accept Michael’s version of events and discloses the situation to the Captain while Ben urges his daughter her lover and her mother to go to the secret destination where the others are located but on the way the lover and the mother are killed and the daughter surrenders herself.

22.00 I watch the football as Man U beats Liverpool after they go down to ten men following a stupid piece of persistent commenting to the referee, and Arsenal with going 1 up at Chelsea lose after a couple of substitutions which did not humour the crowd. In the cricket England look well set to make another big total when Petersen was out after a brilliant instinctive low stretching catch. I have worked out how to switch to the 3 pence per text option on the phone but progress has been slow.
23.00 I watch more cricket, have the salami sandwich and strong coffee, check out MySpace, play lots of chess.

00.30 I write some.
02.15 To bed
05.00ish another waking where I was too tired to check the time and returned immediately to bed and guess the hour from my memory of the level of light.
08.00 Again the change in the number of wakings and I begin to think that the switch from tea to coffee may be a factor. I debate whether to continue with the decision yesterday to work through all DVD’s rather than see the film stories and decide on the DVD’s so that I would for once concentrate on the technology of acting and film making rather than the emotions and coherence of the story. O8.30 The first DVD extras is about the Actors coming together for the first time and then the involvement with the film. The content is such that it quickly engages my full attention as I begin to understand the enormity of the undertaking. I wake this day with another blue sky morning aware from the news when switching on the internet computer that the death toll of USA service men and women in Iraq has reached 4000 while because of a different intensity of commitment significant progress ahs been in he search for a cure for Parkinson’s disease. I will return to the impact of the Fellowship creation DVD after watching the highlights of the after tea session of the third Test in New Zealand. A country where there has been no inclination to visit, in terms of elsewhere in the world. The switching of attention is worthwhile as Strauss powers ahead to his 150 and beyond and the team approach the 500 ahead score with 5 wickets remaining. A judgement will have to be made over night whether to continue in the morning and for how long in terms of giving Strauss the opportunity to make a double century, a possible decision from awareness that should New Zealand avoid the psychological effects of the situation and bat strongly such a total is not out of reach given two full days, therefore continuing for the morning and increasing the score to 550-600 ensures that a home victory is out of the question, However a draw is not the objective in this situation and we need to win to win the Test series and therefore we need to ensure that New Zealand make some attempt to win and rather than playing for a draw.

9.00 One new fact about the film is that Viggo Mortensen who plays Aragon was not the first choice but only a couple of days into shooting the Director and writers realised that the original choice, Stuart Townsend had been cast too young and he was released while a search was immediately made for someone appropriate. Viggo was considered the man and available and was suddenly confronted with the offer to pack his bags and in effect spend the next year of his life in New Zealand which would have implication for contact with his son aged about 11 or 12, my impression is that he was separated from his wife and the boy’s mother at this time, He had achieved an impressive body of film work about a third of his films I have seen but he had not registered with me in terms of an identifiable face and off screen personality. By one of those coincidence connections… watching the Third Test and decide to play go through the 21 Lord of the Rings DVD’s, Viggo completed A history of Violence as his second major film after the Ring cycle was finished and The History of Violence is one of the two DVD’s sent this weekend by the DVD internet postal club. He had no knowledge of the books when he received the phone call from Peter Jackson and only had a couple hours to decide but his son knew he book and immediately told him to take the role, it is said. It is evident from the information gained from the DVD and the internet hat he had he not achieved success with his acting he has had other creative means to fulfil himself having published eleven books of poetry and photographs and of his paintings. I will leave interacting with other actors as I work through the DVD’s during what will be now the rest of this week.
9.30 The second feature looks at the film making process in the life of the four Hobbits in the Fellowship which involved getting on set at 4.30 5 to have their Hobbit feet stuck on and their ears as well as other make up a process which took two hours during which they were required to be on their feet so that the foot additions dried in the right way. There was another long session at the end of shooting. One of the actors worked out that although there were required to go through this process on 275 days, on fifty the feet are not shown on camera. In addition the creation of their physical appearance and the learning of what was involved in each shoot, which could involved being transported by helicopter to the various locations throughout New Zealand with some fifteen being used, they was also the work with blue screen and with their doubles who were under five feet. These were used for movement scene with normal height and extended height characters as one of the main ingredients of the film is those involvement of little people, the Hobbits, the Men and those of Height. Some times the juxtaposition would be achieved by shooting the same scene with the two actors or actors separately and then bringing the two together through the computer. I have watched the work on Gollum before which involved filming the actor and then transcribing this into computerised movement to creating the on screen character and much computerised.

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