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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
Another unfilmable paragraph?
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Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Jun 14 2009, 2:53am

Post #1 of 34 (2686 views)
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Another unfilmable paragraph? Can't Post

Back in December, N.E. Brigand started a thread called An Unfilmable Paragraph in which he quoted what many (including myself) consider to be the key paragraph of The Hobbit and posited the question of whether it could be filmed faithfully.

I want to posit a similar question about another key paragraph, one that not only is important to The Hobbit but also sets up one of the most important moral themes of The Lord of the Rings.


Quote

Bilbo almost stopped breathing, and went stiff himself. He was desperate. He must get away, out of this horrible darkness, while he had any strength left. He must fight. He must stab the foul thing, put its eyes out, kill it. It meant to kill him. No, not a fair fight. He was invisible now. Gollum had no sword. Gollum had not actually threatened to kill him, or tried to yet. And he was miserable, alone, lost. A sudden understanding, a pity mixed with horror, welled up in Bilbo's heart: a glimpse of endless unmarked days without light or hope of betterment, hard stone, cold fish, sneaking and whispering. All these thoughts passed in a flash of a second. He trembled. And then quite suddenly in another flash, as if lifted by a new strength and resolve, he leaped.



Does anyone have any thoughts about how the filmmakers might be able to show Bilbo's sudden understanding, his pity mixed with horror, that led him to go from being about to stab Gollum to attempting the desperate leap over the pitiful figure?

Does anyone else feel -- as I do -- that the failure to successfully portray this moment would be an almost fatal flaw in adapting The Hobbit?

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

www.arda-reconstructed.com


Finding Frodo
Tol Eressea


Jun 14 2009, 3:45am

Post #2 of 34 (968 views)
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How about this? [In reply to] Can't Post

We see Bilbo gripping his sword (OK, he's invisible, but never mind). We see Gollum squatting, muttering, looking like an easy target. Music builds dramatically, then...cut to Bilbo (or Bilbo's footprints) running down the tunnel, squeezing through the door, grunting, brass buttons scattering. All this time it seems that Bilbo must have killed Gollum to escape. But when Bilbo catches up to the dwarves, he tells the story and we see the leap in flashback (although Bilbo is invisible. Hmm. Will they use "flame world" again like when Frodo had the Ring on?) and the dwarves will ask Bilbo why he didn't just stab Gollum and kill him. Bilbo will respond with the lines about pitying him.

Where's Frodo?


Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Jun 14 2009, 4:03am

Post #3 of 34 (921 views)
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That's better than anything I can think of [In reply to] Can't Post

Well done. That might be how it needs to be done. But it is certainly an example of telling, not showing. On the other hand, I simply can't see how such an emotion could adequately be shown, instead of told.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

www.arda-reconstructed.com


sador
Half-elven

Jun 14 2009, 6:00am

Post #4 of 34 (874 views)
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Well done! [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, I like it. It's a good solution, IMO.
But one that doesn't solve the problem with the paragraph NEB asked about.

"In that case you may, perhaps, not altogether waste your time." - Smaug


Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jun 14 2009, 7:43am

Post #5 of 34 (934 views)
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Think of it from another perspective. [In reply to] Can't Post

Instead of asking "How can we show what is going on inside Bilbo?, the filmmakers should be asking "How can we make the audience feel the same way as Bilbo?" It seems to me that the answer to this problem is Gollum.

Go back a page or so, and you'll find the beginning of a conversation between Gollum and Smeagol. It doesn't say so, but given how we've already seen that double personality displayed, it's easy to see the division. Here's how I envision the scene playing out.

*******

Gollum is leading the invisible Bilbo unknowingly toward the exit. He comes to the mouth of the tunnel leading to the goblins' back door. He peers in and shrinks back.

Smeagol: "But we dursn't go in, precious, no we dursn't. Goblinses down there. Lots of goblinses. We smells them. Ssss!"

Gollum: "What shall we do? Curse them and crush them! We must wait here, precious, wait a bit and see."

Gollum sits humped up right in the opening, eyes gleaming green in the dark, head swaying from side to side.

Cut to Bilbo. He stops uncertainly, then begins to creep slowly forward. Gollum stiffens and looks in his direction. He leans forward, his hands on the ground in front of him. His eyes glow and he hisses menacingly.

Gollum (whispers): "Sss! We smells it, the Baggins. It stole the Precious from us. We hates it, we does! We must find it, we must catch it, gollum, gollum!"

Cut to Bilbo. Close up on his face, showing fear and disgust. His face is smeared with sweat and dust. He takes a slow, deep breath and his hand clenches on Sting's hilt as he nerves himself to fight. He begins to very slowly draw it out of its scabbard.

Smeagol (weeping): "It has the Precious, the Precious is lost to us! We are lost without it, lost in the dark. All alone in the dark under the cold stone we are. Never safe now from the nassty sneaking goblinses. Always alone, Precious, always hungry, always hiding. Oh my Precious, my Precious, we are lost....."

Bilbo hesitates, then slowly lets go of Sting. His face sets in determination, then he rushes forward and leaps over Gollum. He nearly stumbles on landing but recovers his balance and runs down the tunnel, followed by the shrieking of Gollum who is frantically feeling about the passage after him.

Gollum (shrieking and wailing in despair): "Thief, thief, thief! Baggins! We hates it, we hates it, we hates it for ever!"

********

I think, given what we've seen from Andy Serkis and the Gollum animators, that it is quite possible to make the audience feel the same pity for Smeagol that Bilbo does, and if the actor playing Bilbo does a decent job of showing his emotions on his face, the audience will understand his position and get the full impact of the situation.

If anything more were needed after this, it would only be a confiding comment from Bilbo to Gandalf later on that it may have been foolish, but when it came right to it, he could not bring himself to kill such a pitiful creature, unarmed and unaware.

Silverlode

"Of all faces those of our familiares are the ones both most difficult to play fantastic tricks with, and most difficult really to see with fresh attention. They have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter, or their colour, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.
Creative fantasy, because it is mainly trying to do something else [make something new], may open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds. The gems all turn into flowers or flames, and you will be warned that all you had (or knew) was dangerous and potent, not really effectively chained, free and wild; no more yours than they were you."
-On Fairy Stories


dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jun 14 2009, 4:41pm

Post #6 of 34 (897 views)
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Yes - if the actor can show [In reply to] Can't Post

that "sudden understanding" with pity and horror, matching to his actions as he releases Sting, then that, in combination with the Smeagol/Gollum duality, and followed by his immediate resolve to leap, should be able to give the audience the feel of the moment!

And produce yet another "cheering" moment! Laugh


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"I desired dragons with a profound desire"

"It struck me last night that you might write a fearfully good romantic drama, with as much of the 'supernatural' as you cared to introduce. Have you ever thought of it?"
-Geoffrey B. Smith, letter to JRR Tolkien, 1915



Silverlode
Forum Admin / Moderator


Jun 14 2009, 7:50pm

Post #7 of 34 (868 views)
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The thing that really makes it possible [In reply to] Can't Post

is the fact that Gollum talks to himself all the time, so he can tell us what Bilbo realized without it feeling unnatural or exposition-y. And when we see Bilbo's expression change, we will understand what changed it because (hopefully) we just had that twinge of pity too.

This is one of those moments I hope really lives up to my internal movie. I can just picture Bilbo escaping Gollum, racing down the passage, dodging goblins and squeezing through the door with buttons flying. That should be a great scene too: cut from seeing Invisible Bilbo stuck and struggling in the doorway to a shot of the half-open door with buttons suddenly appearing in midair and falling all around the doorstep, with a few good goblin reaction shots. Yep, that will be worth cheering for! Cool

Silverlode

"Of all faces those of our familiares are the ones both most difficult to play fantastic tricks with, and most difficult really to see with fresh attention. They have become like the things which once attracted us by their glitter, or their colour, or their shape, and we laid hands on them, and then locked them in our hoard, acquired them, and acquiring ceased to look at them.
Creative fantasy, because it is mainly trying to do something else [make something new], may open your hoard and let all the locked things fly away like cage-birds. The gems all turn into flowers or flames, and you will be warned that all you had (or knew) was dangerous and potent, not really effectively chained, free and wild; no more yours than they were you."
-On Fairy Stories


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 14 2009, 9:02pm

Post #8 of 34 (864 views)
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You don't film paragraphs. [In reply to] Can't Post

I suspect that the first thing a screenwriter needs to do is break away from the conventions of words on a page. I can't imagine an approach more certain to fail than going paragraph by paragraph. How deadly would that be?

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled, the sigh and murmur of the Sea
upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 14 2009, 9:55pm

Post #9 of 34 (867 views)
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You don't film books either. [In reply to] Can't Post

But if you feel a book is worth adapting to film in the first place, you recognize that part of the essence of the original --that you are presumably trying to honor on film-- is tied up in the very arrangment of the author's words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters. A great written story lives every bit as much in its specific word choices as in its broadest themes, and a good film adapation respects both. As you say, you recognize that film doesn't have written words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters, but dialogue, lighting, music, shots, scenes, etc., and for that reason among others you find substitutes for the source's many "unfilmable" elements. But you ignore the effect created by those elements at your peril.

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squire
Valinor


Jun 14 2009, 10:32pm

Post #10 of 34 (894 views)
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But you might film "moments" [In reply to] Can't Post

This scene isn't so much a paragraph as a very important moment in the story, a turning point. I should think screenwriter/adapters would be on the lookout for those. Then the question of their relative "filmability" arises, and that must certainly be answered in a filmic way. I like the suggestion of using a Smeagol/Gollum mono/dialogue to which Bilbo can facially react.

A while back NEB (I think) similarly brought up the "unfilmable moment" of the "bravest thing that Bilbo ever did", when he proceeds down the tunnel towards Smaug, by himself. If I remember, there was some discussion not of whether to film this scene, but of how to, given the hobbit's invisibility due to wearing his ring in an unlit tunnel. That same objection is valid with the end of the Riddles chapter, as has been pointed out today.

I am truly leery of the vast number of scenes in The Hobbit that take place in near-total darkness or, as Tolkien prefers even more, pitch blackness without the hint of a glimmer of light. Add to that an invisible hero, and ... oh dear.



squire online:
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Curious
Half-elven


Jun 15 2009, 5:48am

Post #11 of 34 (886 views)
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Film is a visual medium. A filmmaker should not, I judge, [In reply to] Can't Post

attempt to preserve the voice of the narrator, which a bigger part of The Hobbit than of LotR. I think the film can show Bilbo gripping his sword and contemplating a strike before softening, and leaping. I don't think there should be a voiceover, nor do I think that Bilbo should explain his behavior to the dwarves in an attempt to preserve the voice of the narrator. Trust the audience to figure it out.

The voice of the narrator is something we lose in Jane Austen adaptations as well, yet the adaptations still can work. We just have to turn to the books for the witty asides of the narrator.

Now, the issue of how to film Bilbo when he is invisible or in complete darkness is another matter. I'll have to think about that.


(This post was edited by Curious on Jun 15 2009, 5:51am)


FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 15 2009, 10:04am

Post #12 of 34 (835 views)
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Yes indeed. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
This scene isn't so much a paragraph as a very important moment in the story, a turning point. I should think screenwriter/adapters would be on the lookout for those.



That's what I was trying to say. You can't look at this paragraph as just a paragraph, in isolation. Not if you're a screenwriter. This is indeed a very important moment, and in the dramatic form a turning point such as this reaches backwards and forwards into the development of the characters, and the building of drama, so that everything turns, precisely, on the turning-point. So with a good screenplay, I'd say, you wouldn't be able to look at the one moment that corresponds to the action in the source "paragraph" and expect to find all the subtext of that paragraph right there. But you should expect to find that subtext underlying the characterizations and interactions of the protagonists throughout the scene - and perhaps also reaching forward to later changes in those protagonists and their fates.

Peter Jackson liked to say that LotR was like a "jigsaw puzzle" that had to be taken apart and then put back together. I think he was talking about this kind of process - forget about the paragraphs, and reassemble the story on its turning-points and other "iconic moments". You can recreate the impressions and emotions of the book, but not by literally following the paragraphs - even the important paragraphs - of the book. Something that might have been rich and vibrant in its own medium may not survive a direct transplant to another medium that has different needs, and you risk ending up with a pale and lifeless copy of the original instead.


They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled, the sigh and murmur of the Sea
upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 15 2009, 10:26am

Post #13 of 34 (817 views)
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The darkness is a serious problem. [In reply to] Can't Post

I hope The Hobbit won't all take place in the harsh, bluish "darkness" of LotR. I don't have a very good visual memory, but I have the impression that the underground scenes in Pan's Labyrinth weren't so stark - were they a bit less harshly lit, and/or a bit more greenish or brownish maybe? Still, those were fairly short scenes compared to the amount of time Bilbo spends underground in The Hobbit. I would think that a lot of thought is going to have to go into the "palette" for these.

I agree that you don't need either a narrator or Bilbo's own words later to the dwarves to make this kind of moment work. The scene should have brought the audience to the place where they can understand Bilbo's thoughts - we'll have had our own chance to sense what Gollum's life must have been like, and our own chance to see what Bilbo is capable of, and so we should be able not only to understand Bilbo's reaction but to empathize with it as well.


In Reply To
Now, the issue of how to film Bilbo when he is invisible ....



I have a feeling that this problem has already been addressed in other films (Harry Potter's invisibility cloak for example), as well as in the way the Ring-world works for Frodo in LotR. Bilbo wouldn't get the scary Eye-related stuff that Frodo gets, of course, but he could have some kind of fuzzy-edged view of the world. And conversely, as we see Frodo through that misty aura we could see Bilbo through his own gentler one when he's invisible. When the camera switches to the POV of someone else, of course, he would actually be invisible. That's how it works in LotR, and it doesn't seem to cause any problems of comprehension - I guess the conventions are well enough established that we hardly notice it's being done at all.


They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled, the sigh and murmur of the Sea
upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



FarFromHome
Valinor


Jun 15 2009, 10:31am

Post #14 of 34 (816 views)
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Oh, I thought that was the issue... [In reply to] Can't Post

...that you had with Jackson's LotR. That he hadn't filmed the book.

I certainly agree that you don't film books. But I don't think you film "the very arrangement of the author's words, sentences, paragraphs and chapters" either. I agree that the essence and the effect of those words etc. needs to come through. But I don't think you should expect to produce them by trying to duplicate the physical arrangement of the words on the paper.

They went in, and Sam shut the door.
But even as he did so, he heard suddenly,
deep and unstilled, the sigh and murmur of the Sea
upon the shores of Middle-earth.
From the unpublished Epilogue to the Lord of the Rings



Jettorex
Lorien


Jun 15 2009, 3:12pm

Post #15 of 34 (792 views)
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interesting question [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it could be filmable.
I don't think you would need to do a narrator voiceover, Bilbo talking to himself in his mind, or even have Bilbo explain his feelings later. I think a skilled filmaker and ACTOR/S could show those feelings through closeups of of facial expressions, body language, etc. (of both Bilbo and Gollum).

now how to portray the darkness- Shots of facial expressions, etc only face is lighted evrything else around black. Perhaps interspersed with occasional shots of dimly blue lit rocky walls, floor. Charactors acting like they can't see (or barely can see), groping moving tentatively.

Bilbo's invisability-Show him kind if like they did Frodo in LotR only not as "harsh". Tone down the flame world.
From Gollums point of view-show nothing, perhaps subtle sounds of movement, footsteps, darkness and perhaps near darkness shots of traces of movement by surrounding environment being slightly disturbed by Bilbo's presence.

And yes I also think that they need to be able to show this successfully or it could be a (perhaps not fatal) major flaw.


- "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."


Darkstone
Immortal


Jun 15 2009, 4:52pm

Post #16 of 34 (793 views)
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It depends on the actor. [In reply to] Can't Post

Does anyone have any thoughts about how the filmmakers might be able to show Bilbo's sudden understanding, his pity mixed with horror, that led him to go from being about to stab Gollum to attempting the desperate leap over the pitiful figure?

Get a good actor. A good actor can convey a range of emotions, and show thought processes without saying a word. That's what film acting is all about.


Does anyone else feel -- as I do -- that the failure to successfully portray this moment would be an almost fatal flaw in adapting The Hobbit?

Not just this moment. Bilbo is going to have to carry most of the film. They need a good actor with range. If they end up casting on the basis of looks and youth rather than experience and skill, then yes, it's going to be a disaster.

******************************************
The audacious proposal stirred his heart. And the stirring became a song, and it mingled with the songs of Gil-galad and Celebrian, and with those of Feanor and Fingon. The song-weaving created a larger song, and then another, until suddenly it was as if a long forgotten memory woke and for one breathtaking moment the Music of the Ainur revealed itself in all glory. He opened his lips to sing and share this song. Then he realized that the others would not understand. Not even Mithrandir given his current state of mind. So he smiled and simply said "A diversion.”



Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Jun 15 2009, 5:24pm

Post #17 of 34 (777 views)
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Well Said [In reply to] Can't Post

I think you have pretty much hit the nail on the head with the proverbial hammer.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

www.arda-reconstructed.com


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 15 2009, 5:52pm

Post #18 of 34 (818 views)
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Lots of hammers in "The Hobbit", none proverbial. [In reply to] Can't Post

But just one nail, which may not make it into the film.

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Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Jun 15 2009, 9:06pm

Post #19 of 34 (796 views)
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It took me a while to figure out what you were referring to [In reply to] Can't Post

Then I remembered the Warg-skin. And I bet it will make it into the film.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

www.arda-reconstructed.com


sador
Half-elven

Jun 16 2009, 6:36am

Post #20 of 34 (773 views)
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How were the clothes in the troll-cave hanging from the walls? [In reply to] Can't Post

Were they likely to have only natural ledges?

And there is plenty of mail in The Hobbit, but I suppose not all of it will be shown in the films. Some are likely to find the morning letters jarring.

"When they came to Bill Ferny's house they saw that the hedge there was tattered and unkempt, and the windows were all boarded up.
'Do you think you killed him with that apple, Sam?' said Pippin.
'I'm not so hopeful, Mr. Pippin,' said Sam."

Ferny is a small fish; a delinquette, and part-time ruffian.
But this week in the Reading Room - a real dragon is NOT AT HOME.
Join us!


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 16 2009, 1:03pm

Post #21 of 34 (737 views)
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Snails, too. [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
And there is plenty of mail in The Hobbit...


Also wails, trails, tails, and things that are frail or fail or sail, or happen gaily or daily.

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Voronwë_the_Faithful
Valinor

Jun 16 2009, 1:17pm

Post #22 of 34 (765 views)
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And trails. Lots of trails [In reply to] Can't Post

But, alas, no whales. Unsure

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

www.arda-reconstructed.com


sador
Half-elven

Jun 16 2009, 1:18pm

Post #23 of 34 (786 views)
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That's way beyond my pail. [In reply to] Can't Post

Yes, I know that's the wrong spelling; but I wracked my brains on a major scale - to no avail. Pirate

Serves me right for starting a pun-game in my second language!

"When they came to Bill Ferny's house they saw that the hedge there was tattered and unkempt, and the windows were all boarded up.
'Do you think you killed him with that apple, Sam?' said Pippin.
'I'm not so hopeful, Mr. Pippin,' said Sam."

Ferny is a small fish; a delinquette, and part-time ruffian.
But this week in the Reading Room - a real dragon is NOT AT HOME.
Join us!

(This post was edited by sador on Jun 16 2009, 1:19pm)


Jettorex
Lorien


Jun 16 2009, 1:56pm

Post #24 of 34 (764 views)
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and a Jail [In reply to] Can't Post

or two


- "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."


N.E. Brigand
Half-elven


Jun 16 2009, 3:35pm

Post #25 of 34 (743 views)
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And quite a tale. [In reply to] Can't Post

There's also ale, dales and scales, a gale and a sale, and things that are pale.

But no males.

(And no mail in the sense of posted letters.)

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