It’s finally done! It took me over 2.5 years to complete this review of The Fellowship of the Ring. Well, I say “review” but in truth, it’s more of an analysis and an appreciation of the film.
Here’s hoping the next series of posts on The Two Towers and The Return of the King won’t take as long (yes, I said the same thing when I posted Part II of this review 7 months ago.)
As soon as the Fellowship enters the wooded borders of Lothlórien, there is a notable shift in the tone of the film. After the emotional sequence of Gandalf’s fall a few moments earlier, just like the members of the Company, we the audience begin to settle into a new stage of the journey. Feeling that sense of grief beginning to slowly drift away, with the peaceful woods providing refuge to the Fellowship, the sense of yet a new threat begins to grow. Gimli’s ominous words are accompanied by Shore’s score which introduces Galadriel’s theme: perfectly foreshadowing the mysterious and powerful qualities of the Elf queen.
The appearance of the woodland Elves, though seemingly more war-like than their kin in Rivendell, provides for a welcome sight in the knowledge that our protagonists have stumbled in another friendly, if dangerous, realm. The colour palette of the images, golden hues and crisp browns, capture the essence of Tolkien’s description as the Elves approach the autumn of their existence.
Nonetheless, as we are introduced to Haldir, leader of the Elven company, we still feel an element of doubt as they look disapprovingly at the Fellowship. This feeling intensifies as night deepens, and Aragorn debates with Haldir in hushed tones. Even here, with more foreboding music in the background and dark colours, the scene is nothing like the gloomy atmosphere in Moria. The silver and blue tones represent a significant shift from the Dwarves’ dwellings and stirs the tone of the film towards a different narrative style.
It is an interesting choice for Peter Jackson to opt to inter-cut the dialogue between the two leaders, with close-up shots of the other members of the Fellowship looking at Frodo, as if highlighting the main reason at being unable to proceed into Lothlórien. Boromir’s comforting words to the hobbit highlights both a sensitive and caring side to the warrior’s character, as well as foreshadowing his own journey towards the end of the film.
32. Caras Galadhon
As the Fellowship is allowed to venture into the heart of the Elven realm, and witnesses the two majestic trees basking in a golden sunset light upon Caras Galadhon, the film shifts deeper into a different tone as the sequence plays out: as if being a short film within The Fellowship of the Ring, with is own distinct qualities. This helps us viewers to enter this magical place that teems with mystical vibrancy. The characters themselves are in a trance-like state as they look in awe at their surroundings whilst they climb up one of the lamp-lit mallorn trees.
Peter Jackson cleverly opts to slow down the images, whilst Shore’s score sores to a paradisiac tune as our characters ascend on the topmost platform – enveloped in the purest of colourful lights, before the revelation of the Lord and Lady of Lothlórien.
As the two powerful hosts descend the stairs, Jackson focuses his attention on Galadriel and places the audience from the perspective of the Fellowship: blinded by the light before revealing to us her Elven features.
In this brief interplay between Fellowship and Elf rulers, it is clear who has the upper hand. Galadriel commands the scene from start to finish. With a few gentle words and incredibly powerful expressions, the Lady is aware of all that has happened to the Fellowship and, anticipating the development of the narrative, comprehends how events will unfold via the use of a voice-over to accompany the various members of the Company.
It is a scene that ties together beautiful cinematography, precise editing skills and the extraordinary talent of the actors.
And whilst both we and the Fellowship bask in the heavenly light and comforting words of Galadriel, the presence of evil is never undermined as the Lady’s soft-spoken welcome turns to a sudden, high-pitched warning towards Frodo. An enigmatic, extreme close-up of the Elf’s wide eyes is a spine-tingling moment as we’re reminded once more that behind the beauty and the peace, not everything is going well with the world.
33. The Mirror of Galadriel
That trance-like atmosphere grows deeper as the members of the Fellowship settle down to rest. Being now fully immersed within this own magical world, the ‘Lament for Gandalf’ score reminds us of the outside world and the dangers that still persist beyond the borders of Lothlórien. The shining silvery visuals intensify and a moment of rest from the journey settles in the film. This allows for the revelation of some of the characters’ story arcs to develop further, in particular: Boromir’s.
His conversation with Aragorn outlines the troubled character’s pride and increasing sense of anxiety for the safety of his beloved city. In Boromir we can further glimpse his motivations. Although we’ve already witnessed his character’s weakness towards the Ring, he demonstrates his intense love and care towards his home and his people. Shore’s score gives us hints of what’s to come in The Return of the King as Aragorn’s facial expressions at Boromir’s words indicate a recollection of memories and nostalgia. Yet, he shies away in his uncertainty to accept Boromir’s invitation to return back to Gondor. Aragorn’s past still haunts him and the threat of his ancestor’s weaknesses lie strongly on him.
This conversation scene highlights the difference and similarities between the two characters. Both are great lords of men, but whilst one will do anything to see his city again, the other has yet to come to terms with his true destiny.
This chapter in the film soon takes a darker turn as, once again, we are reminded of the perils that lie outside the borders of this safe haven and that, sooner or later, decisions will need to be made that will affect Middle-earth.
An interesting symmetry unfolds throughout these two chapters in Lothlórien. We first witness the one-to-one conversation between Galadriel and the Fellowship in which the elf emerges as the dominant voice. Later on we see the dialogue between Aragorn and Boromir, where the son of Denethor seems to lead the scene forward. Finally, we see a confrontation between Frodo and Galadriel – a confrontation that was initially postponed in their first introduction a few scenes earlier.
The feeble hobbit, helpless over the power of the elf queen, decides to look into the Mirror of Galadriel. The whole scene has strong dream-like connotations that are further reinforced by the visions projected in the tray of water. A mixture of past, present and possible future events present themselves to the confused hobbit. Like Frodo, we are unaware of their full significance, until the scene escalates with the revelation of the Eye of Sauron as it, symbolically, envelopes all the the hobbit holds dear.
Galadriel, meanwhile, looks on in silence. The barest hint of facial expression is enough to indicate she knows much of what is going on in Frodo’s head and what the visions mean. She is in control of the entire scene, until Frodo presents here with the Ring.
Throughout The Fellowship of the Ring we have seen characters of all sorts succumbing to the power of the Ring, and we wonder now how the Elf queen will react to such an offer. It is an intense and frightening moment as Galadriel turns into a different character altogether. A close-up shot of the Ring lying on Frodo’s open hand cuts once or twice between the elf’s violent display of majesty and power. Ultimately, the Ring fails to entirely subdue her and she slowly diminishes back to her original form, stooping even lower than her own self.
Frodo, having the Ring still in his grasp and not yet fully tempted by it, is now in command of the situation.
This back-and-forth struggle of indirect power between the two characters creates a very dynamic scene and causes us to question who the most powerful (not physically) characters really are. This is evidenced none other than Galadriel’s parting words: “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future”, accompanied by Shore’s mournful, but hopeful, tune indicating that the Fellowship’s journey is about to resume once more.
Having spent so much time in the bright-light visuals of Lothlórien, a stark contrast is created with the dark, dank and ill-lit caverns of Isengard. A montage of Uruk-Hai readying themselves for battle, highlights the rage and violence of their character – all the while, as the Isengard theme pounds on relentlessly throughout.
A wide shot with a colour palette of brown and red hues outlines a small white speck, where the wizard Saruman is addressing his warriors with the power of his voice. But as the scene changes to a medium shot of him and the commander Lurtz, the conversation is more intimate and secretive as the wizard instructs for the capture of the Ring bearer without realising what he is actually looking for. This concept of misinformation will prove crucial to leading the narrative into the second film, when the Uruk-hai eventually fail to capture the intended hobbits.
34. Farewell to Lórien
The tone of the film reverts back to the peaceful land of Lothlórien, with its bright colours and balanced colour palette. The dream-like qualities of the elven realm persist throughout the visuals, with foggy environments and soft lighting surrounding our characters.
The parting gifts scene further reinforces the beauty of this dream state. Characters’ actions slow down, Galadriel’s voice-over as she hands over the gifts to each member, feels ethereal and almost detached from reality. Soon our characters will leave this place of memories and venture back out into the harsh, physical dangers of the real world.
Galadriel’s warning to Aragorn, as the camera slowly tracks in on the elf’s face and the background behind her darkens, gives weight to her words as she warns Aragorn of the choice that lies before him.
An analysis of this scene would not be complete without mentioning the touching moment between Gimli and Galadriel. As the dwarf asks of the Lady for an unusual gift, a symbolic bond of friendship between the two races is established.
The scene closes on a deeply moving and nostalgic tone, as Frodo is given the Phial with the Light of Eärendil. Galadriel’s parting words take over the visuals as the music soars once again to accompany the gentle camera movement of the elf queen raising her hand at the Company’s departure. Her wave is also intentionally directed towards the camera, as if we the viewers are departing this place to follow the Fellowship on their next journey.
35. The Great River
We have seen quite a substantial amount of ‘walking shots’ in the film at this point. Having our characters in boats, flowing down the Great River, provided Jackson with the opportunity to create something visually similar but altogether different than what we’ve seen.
The breathtaking landscapes surrounding the members of the Fellowship, and the visceral camera shots flying over the river, provide an intense buildup to the ever-approaching danger and the climax of the film. These shots are furthermore inter-cut with the Uruk-hai and their relentless hunt for the Company. At one point, there’s an interesting shot in which Lurtz, leader of the group, stops and looks towards the camera. Shots of Legolas and Aragorn also turning their heads round gives the impression that they can see each other, and also creating that sense of urgency in the moment: an urgency that implies both sets of characters are within reach of each other.
Night falls and the Company rests – or so it would, were it not for Boromir’s restlessness and his confrontation with Aragorn. The peaceful bliss and harmony brought about by their stay in Lothlórien has dissipated. The two men find themselves debating which course to take next. Boromir insists on the Ring making its way to Minas Tirith first, but Aragorn is adamant not to let this be so – knowing all to well the danger it could pose. The dialogue between the two is tense and, for the first time, Aragorn vents his fear and anger. His destiny as a King is brought forward again as he is pressed by Boromir – who is falling deeper into temptation. We now realise that Aragorn will soon have to face his fears of weakness and shame, and take up his rightful place in the histories of Gondor; but until now, he resists any attempt to repeat his ancestors’ mistakes and bring any harm to his land, or to the Ringbearer himself.
Frodo overhears all of this, and in his conversation with Sam, he begins to understand that by remaining together, the Ring will tear apart the members of the Fellowship. He realises that only he himself will be able to attempt to fulfill the quest, and that by journeying alone he will save his friends from becoming victims of the threats posed by the Ring.
The Fellowship soon finds itself back on the River. As they venture further south, within the borders of Gondor, we are given a glimpse of the ancient majesty and skill of its people – so far, only hinted at by the character’s words. The Aragonath, two monumental stone structures shadowing the passage down the Falls of Rauros, are revealed in an impressive example of fine cinematography.
The shots alternate from close-ups of the character’s faces looking up, to an eye-level wide shot of the boats passing by the feet of the structures, to another sweeping camera shot of one of the Kings to reveal the landscape beyond. Yet again, Shore’s powerful score adds to the overwhelming feeling of awe.
36. Parth Galen
Halting in a sheltered bay before the Anduin river plunges down the Falls of Rauros, the Company rests until it decides what the best course to take from there. The unity of the Fellowship begins to fracture as two opposing thoughts on where the Ring should be taken, are voiced.
Spending some time alone deep in the autumnal woods, Frodo is confronted by Boromir. Jackson cleverly introduces the new arrival by a subtle hint of threat as a branch waves into frame, whilst Frodo stands with his head slightly turned away from the camera. For an instant it seems as if someone is creeping up from behind the hobbit to attack him with a branch; but the the familiar stature of Boromir soon walks into shot and places the branch amongst others he is carrying under his arm.
Still, the sense of danger has not yet passed. There is a hidden agenda behind Boromir’s soft-spoken manner. We have already seen his slow decline into temptation to use the Ring. The conversation between the hobbit and the man escalate. The camera swoops round Frodo as he tries to avoid Boromir’s oppressive actions. Sean Bean’s emotional transformation is impressive as he turns from his quiet behaviour, to an agitated and ultimately violent individual.
The struggle between the two further fragments the Fellowship (both physically and emotionally), as Frodo escapes with the Ring on his finger. As if to further remind us of the constant danger present, the hobbit finds himself trapped in a vision of the Red Eye as it is searching for him. The turbulent visuals and sounds contrast greatly with the peaceful surroundings Frodo finds himself in as he removes the Ring from his finger.
But no sooner do we relish the silence, than a new threat seems to pursue the hobbit. Strongly reminiscent of the branch shot a few moments before, a boot steps heavily into shot. Old fears resurface as we are momentarily made to think that Boromir has caught up with his movements, but it is soon revealed that the figure is none other than Aragorn.
Frodo instinctively backs away, unaware of how deep the power of the Ring has taken hold of his friends. Aragorn moves forward, raising both hands in his innocence. In another scene closely parallel to that between Galadriel and Frodo, the hobbit offers the Ring to his companion. As an audience, we already know how weak men are in the face of such an object. Would Aragorn, descendant of the fallen Isildur, make the same mistake?
His eyes remain fixed on the Ring, as he slowly approaches Frodo’s open hand. The familiar Ring theme plays in the background, mixed with the eerie voice of Sauron calling Aragorn’s name. The Ranger’s hand hovers momentarily over the Ring. He will surely fall to the temptation and take it for himself. The music rises to a crescendo, but then instantly dissipates as Aragorn’s hand gently pushes back the Ring.
Just like Galadriel, Aragorn has passed the test. He does not succumb to its power, and in doing so, he proves himself worthy of becoming King; but at the same time, he also realises that he cannot continue his journey with Frodo. Both he and Frodo know that the close presence of the Ring will slowly consume them all the further they venture towards Mordor.
Aragorn’s touching words that he would have gone to the end to accompany his friend, demonstrates the loyalty and fearlessness of the character – qualities that will prove essential in the next stage of the journey.
In this moment, the Uruk-hai discover the whereabouts of the Fellowship and a battle ensues.
37. The Breaking of the Fellowship
Every member of the Fellowship proves himself loyal towards the Ringbearer and the quest. Each is willing to sacrifice his life, to ensure Frodos safety.
As Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli are engaged in a fast-paced skirmish with the Uruk-hai, Merry and Pippin reveal themselves to the orcs to let their companion escape from their clutches. It is an emotional moment as they emerge out of their hiding place and attract their enemies’ attention. Frodo looks on helplessly: his heart torn at leaving his friends to fend for themselves.
In the meantime, Shore provides a rousing music to accompany the visceral fighting taking place. A heroic motif follows Boromir’s entrance as he runs towards the aid of the trapped hobbits. Following his struggle with Frodo, he redeems himself by bravely confronting the Uruk-Hai and sounding his horn to draw them away from the other companions.
The echoing sounds of the horn of Gondor become a symbol of Boromir’s slowly dying flame of the warrior.
38. Boromir’s Last Stand
This is undoubtedly the finest scene in the entire trilogy. The fighting that ensues between Boromir and the Uruk-Hai is emotionally devastating, as the brave warrior – overwhelming by foes – holds his ground to defend the hobbits.
The character’s story arc is complete. From a proud man willing to give everything in defence of his beloved city and land, he succumbed to the temptation of the Ring, but finally emerged triumphant by his unswerving loyalty to the Fellowship at the cost of his life.
Howard Shore’s masterful soundtrack reaches its absolute best with a heart-wrenching track, accompanying the slow motion shots of an exhausted Boromir succumbing to his wounds, whilst his echoing and ever-distanced cries resonate profoundly throughout the scene.
Being a symbol of the declining power of Gondor, Boromir finally succumbs to the enemy as the hobbits are captured.
It is Aragorn who becomes protagonist of this scene, as he confronts Lurtz in a nail-biting showdown with the Ranger displaying his dominant power over the orc. The symbolism here is quite obvious. Aragorn has taken the mantle from Boromir to defend the White City and bring peace to Gondor and the lands of Middle-earth.
39. The Departure of Boromir
Boromir’s death seals Aragorn’s faith. The rightful king of Gondor realises that both his current journey and destiny will lead him back to his ancestral home.
This parting scene between the two is an exact reflection of the two previous conversation between the characters, that took place in Lothlórien and along the Great River. Boromir’s emotional words of farewell compel Aragorn to become the man he was born to be. His character has been transformed and all his wrong actions have faded into nothing as Boromir has proved his worth. Initially arguing against Aragorn’s claim to the throne, he now confesses his admiration toward his King.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to everyone else, Frodo lies silent on the shores of the River – contemplating the hard choice before him. A slow track-in shot on the Hobbit’s face, with Gandalf’s encouraging words resonating in the background, outline the hobbits sudden determination to embark on the journey alone.
A highly emotional moment demonstrates Sam’s unswerving loyalty and friendship towards his master. Risking death in his attempt to reach Frodo, Sam is perhaps the most fearless of all members of the Company. Fearless in the face of unknown danger and acting out for the sheer love he bears towards Frodo. As the camera drifts away from the two hobbits making their way towards the eastern shore, the river successfully manages to split the Fellowship in two.
40. The Road Goes Ever On
Having bid farewell to their companion, Aragorn urges Legolas and Gimli to seek out the captured hobbits. His resolute decision not to follow Frodo marks a change in the character’s story arc and will lead to the events taking place in the next film.
The music soars as the companions run forward until they disappear into the woods, with their backs turned towards the camera. The Fellowship may have been broken, but the journey for each character continues – if in different directions. This is emphasised by their distancing from the camera.
In the next shot, we see Frodo and Sam’s backs turned towards us as the camera glides upward to reveal the distant Mordor mountains. The vast, ominous environment contrasts strongly with the small and solitary figures of the two hobbits standing on the hill.
Just like Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas in the previous shot, Frodo and Sam walk away from the camera towards their goal, until they disappear among the rugged landscape.
That brings us to the end of The Fellowship of the Ring review Part III. Did you know that this 3-part review is over 13,500 words long?
Be sure to check out for the first part of The Two Towers sometime in the near future …