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Erik Korling

on 7 October 2014

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Frodo holds the Ring of Power over the pit of lava within Mount Doom at the end of his quest.
The traditional
Hero Quest
story involves a hero who recognizes a loss or theft and sets off on a journey filled with dangers and obstacles in order to retrieve what was lost or stolen:

Odysseus struggles to reclaim his home.
King Arthur's knights search for the Holy Grail.
Luke Skywalker strives to rescue the Princess.

Tolkien's hero, Frodo, in contrast, endeavors to return the evil
Ring of Power
to where it was forged and destroy it there - he is not trying to recover or reclaim or rescue anything - his quest is therefore an anti-quest, one of destruction rather than acquisition.
THEME: The Anti-Quest
Artist's rendering of The Shire and Hobbiton
The symbol which occupies Frodo's mind, and which is constantly reinforced by Sam's words and deeds in aid of the quest, is
The Shire
from whence they came.

The Shire
represents all that is good and peaceful and important in the lives of the Hobbits, both a place and, because of the familiarity and comfort of that place, a state of mind - it is a kind of
Garden of Eden
, a kind of
for them.

The closer Frodo and Sam get to Mount Doom, the farther they are from the bliss of Bag End, and so the more firmly they hold it in mind to see them through the final stages of their quest.
SYMBOL - The Shire
Jackson and Crew setting up a shot with Frodo and Sam in the rocks of "Emyn Muil"
Film Directors have a plethora of shots to choose from, and depending on the technology they have available to them, they can come up with shots that would have been physically impossible to have shot in the past, simply because the technology makes it possible to place the camera and move it in ways that are new and dynamic.

Jackson made use of almost every old-school and new-school form of cinematography in order to capture the enormous number and variety of shots he needed to bring Tolkien's imaginary world to the practical world of film.

His chief instruments, however, were the tried and true master shots, medium shots, and close shots.
The Red Book of Westmarch
J.R.R. Tolkien's
The Lord of the Rings
is supposed to be a translation of an ancient work known as the Red Book of Westmarch written by Bilbo Baggins, Frodo Baggins, and Samwise Gamgee.

Although there are many themes and symbols employed throughout the story, it is fundamentally structured upon a single theme and a single symbol:
The Anti-Quest
The Shire
The Anti-Quest and The Shire
How Music, Special Effects, and Intercut Shots are used to develop and present theme and symbol

Theme & Symbol in
The Lord of the Rings
Development & Presentation
Peter Jackson directing Orlando Bloom (as Legolas) amidst the Rohirrim for The Two Towers.
In adapting Tolkien's literary imagery to the silver screen, Director Peter Jackson and his team of filmmakers were confronted with a daunting task: how to show an audience what had always been the individual imaginary world of the reader.

In developing and presenting
The Anti-Quest
The Shire
, Jackson relied heavily on three basic cinematic elements:

Musical Score
Medium, Close, and Master Shots
Special Effects (provided by WETA)
Special Effects are a staple of film from its inception to today.

Peter Jackson explored and employed virtually every form of Special Effects he could to bring Tolkien's vision of Middle Earth to the screen.

Of particular note in developing and presenting The Anti-Quest and The Shire was his use of the following effects:

Bigatures (Scale Models)
Digital Matting
I could not have approached a work of this scope without great collaborators. Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh have led me on this journey through Middle Earth. They lit the dark corners of Tolkien's world and revealed to me its secrets and mythology. Whether through the bright sunlight and snow of Caradhras or the pitch black of Moria, I was able to follow their path. At times I felt like Frodo with the burden of The Ring in my vest pocket, but page by page, then note by note I was able to uncover Tolkien's complex world.
- Howard Shore
The Anti-Quest ~
The Prophecy
The score begins with a subtle blending of instrumental and choral elements that rise in intensity by growing stretches at each level.

As the chorus strikes on key identities, first the Ring, then the Shadow, then Death, and finally the Ring again, the two elements build upon one another, punctuating each other's rising power on our attention.

Once they mutually reach their height, the chorus disappears and the instrumentals slowly descend with themes of the lands and peoples of Middle Earth, falling ever downward until horns pick up the theme of the Hobbits and The Fellowship, moving the music upward again, prophesying the ultimate victory of these smallest of peoples over the power of The Ring by destroying it.
The Shire ~
The Fellowship of the Ring
Anti-Quest & Shire ~
The Tales that Really Matter
The Synthesis ~
The Crack of Doom
The theme and symbol are brought together musically in the climactic moment of the film when Frodo holds the fate of The Ring in his hands over the lava pit within Mount Doom.

Howard Shore's score is three minutes of mounting tension and high drama as The Ring strives to finally seduce Frodo and save itself from destruction.
Frodo fails to overcome the power of The Ring and the music rises to a fever pitch with pangs of regret interlaced within it. Gollum then attacks to retrieve it for himself, and as they struggle and eventually fall over the edge of the pit, the music enters its final climactic moments as Sam must now retrieve Frodo from the edge after The Ring was destroyed as Gollum sank into the lava holding it.

The score resolves in the last minute with the sedate and tranquil strains of drawn out notes from string instruments as Frodo and Sam, the host of Men, Elves, a Dwarf and two Hobbits, and a Wizard witness the explosive, destructive aftermath of The Ring's immolation in the lava.
The Shire ~
The Two Towers
The Anti-Quest and The Shire ~
The Return of the King
Jackson resolves The Anti-Quest through a series of intercut Master Shots, Medium Shots, and Close Shots. Punctuated and enhanced by the musical score, this shot selection heightens the emotional impact of the narrative by constantly contextualizing the fate of the characters in their surroundings. The exchange of close ups with long shots isolates Sam and Frodo, raising the sense of doom around them.
Jackson resolves The Shire symbol through a similar series of intercut Master Shots, Medium Shots, and Close Shots, though with a slower pace allowing us to linger on the mixed emotional states of the Hobbits trying to fit back into a society for which they very nearly died - the content of the shots emphasizes the ironic distance that they now have for the home they love and cherish.
Digital Matting
Since his earliest film projects, Peter Jackson has favored the use of scale models (miniatures) to achieve shots for various purposes, be it exploding a house or - as with
The Lord of the Rings
- creating the massive architectural ruins and cities and fortresses that domiante Tolkien's Middle Earth.

Over the course of designing and constructing such scale models for
The Lord of the Rings
, Jackson's model makers began referring to these giant scale models not as miniatures, but as bigatures!
The Shire is largely shot with wide-angle master shots inter-cut with medium and close shots of the Hobbits and their activites.

Key to the visual presentation of The Shire is the accom-panying musical score which highlights the placid, idyllic, and somewhat innocently silly life of the Hobbits.
In contrast to its depiction in the first film, The Shire becomes increasingly a memory rather than a reality as the Hobbits get further and further from it.

Here, in the mists and rocks of Emyn Muil, Frodo and Sam recollect the simple pleasures and bliss of The Shire as they fondly handle a small box of cooking spices Sam has been carrying in hopes of using on the quest.

The use of close ups of the box and of the actors as they reminisce in the forbidding, craggy, dark environment in which they are lost elevates the emotional import of their memories of that now distant land of green, visiting upon the audience a sense of longing to return themselves.
Previsualization allows a filmmaker and his team to produce an inexpensive draft of a film before major production begins in order to streamline the production process itself.

Jackson developed both story-boards and then crude digital animatics to present his concept of the films to producers and crew to bring about the complex images and sequences he envisioned for Tolkien's world on the big screen.
Digital matting is the overlaying of various digital elements to build up a more complex and visually dynamic scene for the screen.

In this selection, we see how The Anti-Quest is brought to a conclusion through the use of matting or overlaying a number of visual elements digitally to create the swirling, abyssal environment of the Crack of Doom and the precipice that overhangs the ominous lava pit into which Frodo must cast The Ring in order to destroy it.
The Anti-Quest and The Shire intersect in The Two Towers with the content of Sam's speech and the musical accompaniment.

Sam's speech is a mix of despair and tragic irony - that he and Frodo should be back in The Shire and not here in a city destroyed by war.

As the music swells with the theme of The Shire, images of destruction and victory fill the screen, an interesting juxtaposition of tranquility and chaos.

The Shire theme continues throughout, lengthening and fading as Faramir realizes that he must allow Frodo and Sam to continue on their quest to destroy The Ring.

It is clear that Jackson intends us to see that the only hope to defeat evil in the world is The Shire.
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