May 07, 2001

Being True to the Artist's Intent
Rhys M.B.

I am currently re-reading LotR (for the first time in 17 years) in preparation for the movie. I would like to post a few thoughts as a result.

First, regarding Peter Jackson's decision to not include the scenes with Tom Bombadil (and Goldberry) and, as a result, also excluding the scenes in The Old Forest (with the Old Willow) and the Barrow Downs (and the Barrow Wights)... while I can understand his decision to not include them in the theatrical release of the film (they do not directly do anything with advancing the story and have no bearing on anything that happens later), I wish he had filmed them so they could be included as optional scenes for a DVD release (BTW, Tom Baker would have been a perfect Tom Bombadil). I do want to mention however that, after days of considering this section of the book, that its inclusion in LotR is part of the genius of JRRT. In pretty much any story you read, everything that happens in that story is there for a reason or advances the plot or action of the story. The brilliance of Tom Bombadil is that he has NOTHING to do with the story and nothing that happens in any scene with him has any bearing later on.

The other thing I want to mention sort of relate to recent remarks by (I hope I get the name correct) Strider2K2. Several years ago, when colorization of films became a "fear" of Hollywood purists, some people tried to pass a law intended to stop colorization. The basis of the law was to be the "intent of the artist". What no one in Hollywood seemed to consider was how this law could be used against them every time they brought a book, or story, or play or some other adapted material to the screen, they would have been guilty of violating their own law because Hollywood seems incapable of adapting anything without thinking they can do better. I have always wondered why they want to bring something to the screen but do not want to be faithful to the source material. My fear with LotR, after seeing some of the rumored changes being made with the film, is that Peter Jackson will be guilty of this as well.

Now, I do not mind, for example, exposition being shown rather than spoken. After all, film is a visual medium and added impact can be given to "background" material by showing it as it "happened" rather than having characters on screen describing it. I also don't mind if, for example, Frodo and Sam's journey is told concurrently with what is happening to the others at the same time by going back and forth between various events. It is a different WAY of telling the story which might be more appropriate for film and does not necessarily change the events themselves. What I DO mind is if Jackson has changed or expanded roles to better suit an actor, as well as if he leaves out scenes and events from the books to "create" scenes and events that were not part of the books. It is not his story to write, it was JRRT's story. Jackson has chosen to "illustrate" JRRT's story with his medium of chose, but that does not give him the right to put himself in the role of the material's creator and "muck around with it."

In this case, I think the obligation to do a film (or films) of LotR brings with it a special obligation to tell the good professor's story as it was written and use the visual aspects of the film medium to bring his words to life, not to re-write those words or to take on the role of "co-creator" of the tale by adding in new material or ideas of the filmmaker's.