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SCOD - The words of a snake


Nov 14 2012, 5:56pm

Post #1 of 22 (1495 views)
SCOD - The words of a snake Can't Post

"Gandalf the Grey is coming" – Gríma "Wormtongue" "Captain Obvious" son of Gálmód, 2nd March TA3019.

Feel free to answer any, all or none of the following questions.

1) How does this image make you feel?

2) Both of the characters in this shot have pretty extreme facial make-up. What do you think of the decision to make Gríma so slimy-looking? What do you make of Théoden’s appearance?

3) Music Question! From when our four-person Fellowship enter the Golden Hall, we get some very tension-building music (I believe it is a theme for Wormtongue). Do you think it is appropriate, and how do you think the scene would be with a less obviously tense soundtrack?

(The music to which I refer is approximately 0:24-1:27 on "The Court of Meduseld", TTT-CR Disc 2 Track 2, or a bite-sized version at about 1:54-2:10 on "Edoras" on the OST. You can listen to it here.)

4) Any further comments?


Nov 14 2012, 6:00pm

Post #2 of 22 (1049 views)
Brad Dourif is amazing in this scene. I love his delivery of "I told you to take the Wizard's staff!" [In reply to] Can't Post



Nov 14 2012, 6:15pm

Post #3 of 22 (1071 views)
Music [In reply to] Can't Post

To answer the music question... perhaps it's obviously tense (that never bothers me, though), but the music works from a storytelling perspective because it's hinting that Wormtongue is actually working for Saruman. The tempo is 5/4, which is the signature tempo for Isengard.


Nov 14 2012, 6:15pm

Post #4 of 22 (1068 views)
Great choice, thanks! [In reply to] Can't Post

1) How does this image make you feel?

It makes me feel very sympathetic towards Theoden as we see Grima's foul play in action directly against the king. I think that Brad Dourif was excellent in the role, giving the character a sinister, manipulative and almost brooding nature. At this point in particular he is very strong, as he proceeds to taunt Gandalf, his dark mockery providing a great contrast to the majesty of McKellen's performance.

2) Both of the characters in this shot have pretty extreme facial make-up. What do you think of the decision to make Gríma so slimy-looking? What do you make of Théoden’s appearance?

To be honest I was slighty disappointed about the radical difference between Theoden's two appearances (I imagined him as an old man with a long beard, similar to Tolkien's description and similar to the animated Theoden in the Ralph Bakshi version).

I think that Grima's appearance was very effective, with his pale skin tone representing an image of death and decay to my mind. His black hair and costume along with his piercing eyes help to make him a formidable presence onscreen.

3) Music Question! From when our four-person Fellowship enter the Golden Hall, we get some very tension-building music (I believe it is a theme for Wormtongue). Do you think it is appropriate, and how do you think the scene would be with a less obviously tense soundtrack?

Whatever qualms I have may have with the trilogy (mostly only small ones) I cannot fault the choice of music or Shore's score in any way. The beginning of the piece creates a very uncomfortable and unwelcome feeling, emphasizing that the four companions are outsiders. I think the scene could work with a less tense score, but Shore's version is so embedded into my mind that I can't further comment on this.

4) Any further comments?

One of my favourite scenes in TTT. The dialogue between Wormtongue and Gandalf was well-written/chosen for this moment and I very much like the subtle way in which the Gandalf/Saruman "duel" was handled.

"Radagast is, of course, a worthy wizard, a master of shapes and changes of hue, and he has much lore of herbs and beasts, and birds are especially his friends."-Gandalf, The Lord of the Rings.

(This post was edited by Radagast-Aiwendil on Nov 14 2012, 6:18pm)


Nov 14 2012, 8:20pm

Post #5 of 22 (1069 views)
IMO, that's the problem with it [In reply to] Can't Post

The music foreshadows the events too obviously, IMO. I feel that in many cases, the LOTR soundtrack piled onto the drama too forcefully, thus exacerbating PJ's lack of subtlety even further.


Nov 14 2012, 10:18pm

Post #6 of 22 (1054 views)
"More subtle" is not necessarily "better" [In reply to] Can't Post

Sometimes a lack of subtlety may actually be more appropriate, or at least as dramatically valid.

What matters more to me, in this particular case, is if the efforts to build tension have an effect on those who the efforts are aimed at. And, in my opinion, they absolutely do. For an example, I often think of Jaws...the music may not be so "subtle" that it's barely there, but it builds and builds with such mastery that, even if the audience has a suspicion of what's coming, they're under its spell. So it is also with Shore's scores, from my perspective.

(This post was edited by thomasofrohan on Nov 14 2012, 10:21pm)


Nov 14 2012, 11:19pm

Post #7 of 22 (1048 views)
Its a matter of taste [In reply to] Can't Post

I generally find that a lack of subtlety, and a ham-fisted directorial style, is usually a bad thing.


Nov 14 2012, 11:53pm

Post #8 of 22 (1031 views)
But how many people actually notice something like that? [In reply to] Can't Post

It's subtext...I doubt anyone on their first viewing was going, "Oh, that's 5/4! Wormtongue must be working for Saruman!" Very, very doubtful.


Nov 15 2012, 4:43am

Post #9 of 22 (1068 views)
Most people I have spoken with [In reply to] Can't Post

Even those that really enjoyed the films, believe they are about as subtle as kick to the teeth.

They may not be able to pinpoint precise elements of the film that collectively create such a feeling, but the overall effect is clear.


Nov 15 2012, 6:32am

Post #10 of 22 (1002 views)
That's not the point I was trying to make [In reply to] Can't Post

The fact that Wormtongue is evil is obvious, but the fact that he is working specifically with Saruman is not. That aspect of the music (incorporation of a symbolic time signature) is simply subtext. If you're listening for that kind of detail, you'll understand...if not, you'll found out later.

Peter may ask Shore to compose very dramatic music for certain scenes, but there's plenty of stuff going on beneath the obvious factors. It's only obvious on a very simple "this is what I'm immediately hearing" level. There are many layers that shouldn't be so readily dismissed.


Nov 15 2012, 6:46am

Post #11 of 22 (1040 views)
Got it [In reply to] Can't Post

Makes sense.

In general, I think the score, on its own, is a better work of art than the rest of the films.


Nov 15 2012, 9:39am

Post #12 of 22 (1087 views)
What's subtlety got to do with it? [In reply to] Can't Post

The music foreshadows the events too obviously, IMO. I feel that in many cases, the LOTR soundtrack piled onto the drama too forcefully, thus exacerbating PJ's lack of subtlety even further.

When you're telling a larger-than-life epic story, you're not going for subtlety, instead you need villains that project a powerful sense of evil and danger. This is not a mystery story, where you are supposed to figure out for yourself who's the villain here. Let's face it, Tolkien wasn't so subtle himself, introducing this character as "Wormtongue" before we even meet him!

Actually, I think starlesswinter's point about the time signature of the music is a very good one, and one that's borne out by Tolkien's treatment of this episode in the book. I don't think the muscial "clue" is overly obvious, although of course if you pay attention you understand what it means. In fact that's a very good approximation to the storytelling style used by Tolkien here - he's also has made it clear to those who were paying attention that Saruman is at the bottom of the trouble in Rohan, with Gandalf's words at the Council of Elrond: "In Rohan I found evil already at work: the lies of Saruman..." And Gandalf's reaction to the first mention of Wormtongue is far from subtle too - when the guards obstruct the travellers saying they are under orders from Wormtongue:
"‘Wormtongue?’ said Gandalf, looking sharply at the guard. ‘Say no more!"
Not so subtle - but I don't see Tolkien attempting subtlety here, any more than Jackson does. There's a time and a place for subtlety, and this ain't it!


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


Nov 15 2012, 1:06pm

Post #13 of 22 (992 views)
The bit of music I'm talking about, which plays over this, is not in 5/4 [In reply to] Can't Post

It's mostly in 4/4. The 5/4 rhythm comes in in the more "action"-type music, when the fighting starts (as Grima says "I told you to take the wizard's staff). Still, that's a great point to raise Wink Love those little details in the score.


Nov 15 2012, 2:02pm

Post #14 of 22 (991 views)
But was Tolkien really subtle himself? // [In reply to] Can't Post


The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.


Nov 15 2012, 5:05pm

Post #15 of 22 (990 views)
As you see, [In reply to] Can't Post

People are calling you out on this assertion Wink

You said before that you wished PJ had made Wormtongue more subtle in the films, but what would that have accomplished? He has only a major role in one chapter and then brief appearances in two others. Exactly what purpose are we to infer from the character if he's just tossed aside? In fact, his "arc" so to speak is almost like a mirror of Gollum's and in the end he just fulfills a role that would have otherwise been uninteresting. As I've said, I think there is a great deal of subtlety in the physical acting, but making him seem just amoral is going against the purpose of the character. Tolkien created a swayed man in the midst of Rohan who everyone could see, but no one could stop because he was the the behest of the king. Clearly he was evil with no real intentions except serving his master, given that he enacted nefarious schemes that seemed to be traced to him extremely easily. Again, what would we gain from "masterful" subtlety with this particular character, especially when you've complained about not every character needing to be complex?


Nov 15 2012, 6:51pm

Post #16 of 22 (954 views)
Depends on what you mean by subtle [In reply to] Can't Post

I think Tolkien's LOTR is very subtle in terms both how layered his sub-creation is, and how nuanced the thematic threads of the story are. People who claim that LOTR is simply about good and evil have essentially missed the point. The themes of death, the unhealthy yearning for deathlessness, the wraithifying consequences of a lust for temporal power, and despair, seem to pass them by. He also sketches the structure of the story in a subtle manner - not being a slave to the idea that everything, and everyone, must be neatly connected in terms of both narrative or characterization.

However, there is certainly some clarity from Tolkien on who some of the bad guys are. Wormtongue is obviously not a name for an angel, I will admit that. There is nothing too subtle in this character, not even in the books.

However, for some reason, PJ feels that he needs to take these cues, and then amplify them beyond necessity. Wormtongue is called Wormtongue in the book, but he is not described as being hideously pale with open wounds, wearing Goth black clothes with lace trim, having no eyebrows, and feeding lines to an almost dead, zombified Theoden. Add the foreboding music to that, and you have Tolkien's text pumped full of steroids.

So no, this was not one of Tolkien's most subtly drawn characters. But that doesn't excuse PJ from amping that aspect up to the 11th degree. If anything, he should have toned it down a bit. A visual medium, like film, requires careful choices in terms of visual and aural cues, and PJ doesn't seem too interested in that.

(This post was edited by Shelob'sAppetite on Nov 15 2012, 6:53pm)


Nov 15 2012, 7:59pm

Post #17 of 22 (1004 views)
I love a good bad guy design! [In reply to] Can't Post

This is the director who made splatter horror films, after all... What do you expect? Tongue


Nov 15 2012, 8:22pm

Post #18 of 22 (1144 views)
What do I expect from PJ? [In reply to] Can't Post

Not much, to be honest.

That's why I think he wasn't the right director for the job. Smile

I mean, is a primarily splatter horror director an appropriate interpreter of JRR Tolkien, who was a brilliant linguist, philologist, mythologist and creator of worlds?

Ah, well. My expectations are low now, I like Freeman, Armitage, McKellen, Stott and Persbrandt, and so I expect to enjoy the Hobbit a lot more.

Tol Eressea

Nov 16 2012, 7:00am

Post #19 of 22 (1165 views)
Do I dare to put in my two cents? :P [In reply to] Can't Post

Okay, I agree and disagree on all points.

I do think that Wormtongue is overly sinister looking. A person in the position he's in would need to look a bit more trustworthy; no one would put their faith in someone that obviously snaky. I know you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but come on...!! However, this didn't really bother me while watching. What did bother me was that Theoden looked like the living dead, the implication being that this was because he was under a magical spell. What I had expected from reading the book is that Theoden's problem was more psychological than magical; he had listened to Wormtongue's poisonous words telling him that he was old and out of it for so ling that he had come to believe it. As the saying goes, you don't quit doing things because you get old; you get old because you quit doing things...or words to that effect. Since PJ said he didn't like obvious wizardry, I was surprised by his take on this scene. When I read it, it seemed to me that Gandalf didn't break a literal spell, but rather a metaphorical one. So this scene isn't what I expected; I would have liked a more subtle approach, but I think it was effective anyway.

As for the music - yeah, maybe it's a bit OTT, but it worked for me. I guess I have bad taste.WinkMadAngelic

"The question isn't where, Constable, but when." - Inspector Spacetime


Nov 16 2012, 2:16pm

Post #20 of 22 (929 views)
Movie Demographics like LOTR need to appeal to a [In reply to] Can't Post

young audience. Well in 2001 (Bomby was 51)
In 2002 (Bomby was 52)
In 2003 (Bomby was 53)

Yet while watching a SuperDuper Adaption of my Favorite books
that I had waited 44 years for?

Bomby was 17, then 18, then 19
All over Again...
And..for that TIME. transporation
Back There Again...Bomby&Goldberry got to be kids
Once more.
For that Bomby can't " THANG them very Bunch?"
to of All of PJ&Co enough.

Getting TH is a Bonus timeTrip too!

One Ringer
Tol Eressea

Nov 21 2012, 1:14pm

Post #21 of 22 (854 views)
Meant to say this earlier, [In reply to] Can't Post

but when I read that "Captain Obvious" line a few days ago, I nearly burst. Laugh Well played.

More on topic, this is a fantastic shot. Theoden looks like such a broken and beaten person with nothing left but to heed "the words of a snake." I also can't get over the fact that Grima (as well as Mr. Dourif) looks like he gets so much joy out of this, like a kid playing with a new lego set. Tongue

FOTR 10th Anniversary Music Video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33xJU3AIwsg

"You do not let your eyes see nor your ears hear, and that which is outside your daily life is not of account to you. Ah, it is the fault of our science that it wants to explain all; and if it explain not, then it says there is nothing to explain."


Nov 22 2012, 2:22am

Post #22 of 22 (1390 views)
Well hope that the dim witted audience members [In reply to] Can't Post

benifited from your vocal objections!Mad


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