Genuine emotion rarely presents itself in any substantial level in today’s films. Much of what people call emotion in films is really just sentiment, which can be described as “a slightly cheaper version of emotion,” (Jackson). Yet Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Ring Trilogy exudes genuine emotion that allows audiences to be drawn into the story and feel for the characters. Nowhere in the film trilogy does pure unadulterated emotion come into play more than in the two closely related scenes where Faramir leads his men through the streets of Minas Tirith, and when Pippin sings for Denethor as Faramir and his men go to fight the orcs at Osgiliath. Through Jackson’s directing, the acting, the details of each shot, and the music within the scenes, the real emotion comes alive for the audience.
Peter Jackson’s approach to directing the Lord of the Rings Trilogy was perfection. According to John Noble, who plays Denethor in Return of the King, Jackson is “very demanding, but in a complimentary way. [Noble] had one scene in the third film, and it called for every skill an actor can have….[He] did the first take, and [Jackson] came out and said, ‘That was fantastic, let’s do it again.’ And he said that 17 more times,” (Noble). Jackson’s standards are high, and this is apparent in the trilogy as a whole. Jackson understands the human drama behind J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and sought to create genuine emotion throughout the entire trilogy, but especially in the third film. The Return of the King is “the most emotional, and that’s important, because no matter how much spectacle we put on the screen…there’s a point where people just want the human story, the story they can relate to,” (Jackson). It was important to Jackson to capture raw human emotion on screen, without making it seem like mere sentiment. The prime examples of Jackson’s success of this effusion of emotion are the two scenes dealing with Faramir, his men, Denethor, and Pippin.
The opening of the first scene shows grim faced men, soldiers of Gondor, dressed in full, shining armour riding their horses slowly through the streets of Minas Tirith. The people of this great city line the ways, dressed in somber colours, throwing flowers at the feet of the passing horses or handing little bouquets to individual soldiers. When thinking of soldiers about to go off to battle, one usually thinks of people cheering them on to try to encourage them. But Jackson portrays the utter hopelessness of this upcoming engagement by having all the extras remain silent. Most have grim expressions filled with despair on their faces, or, if they smile, it is to try to be encouraging, although sadness is obvious in their eyes. All of these details set the mood, and foreshadow to the audience that there is no hope for these soldiers. The soldiers and people know, just as the audience knows, that the men going to battle will die.
Faramir knows this too, but refuses to disobey his father. His face is grim set and full of sadness and pain. David Wenham, who plays Faramir, explains that the reason his character is willing to face certain death is that “he loves his father [Denethor], and he follows his commands fully,” (Wenham). Wenham plays Faramir as a man who is driven to prove to his father that he is worthy to be his son, even as he rides towards death. Young men in the audience with strict and very demanding fathers can relate to Faramir since they, too, would probably do anything to prove to their fathers that they are good sons. Wenham’s acting successfully allows at least part of the audience to relate to his character, and thus be more drawn into the story. Even if individuals in the audience do not have demanding fathers, they can still relate to the emotions Faramir portrays in his face: great sadness but determination in the face of great adversity. Great acting is marked by being able to bring the audience into the story, and Wenham successfully does so.
The next scene, which fans affectionately call “Pippin’s Song,” is a montage of many different scenes that work together to create an overall feeling of sorrow and despair. Faramir and his men, once out of the city, begin to trot towards the ruined city of Osgiliath, which they had lost to Mordor’s orcs earlier in the film, because Denethor demanded that the city be retaken. The shot then moves to the rubble of Osgiliath, where a single orc with blood on his face appears. The soldiers riding are once again shown before cutting back to Osgiliath, where more orcs start to appear. These sneering orc faces are then contrasted by a quick change to Denethor—who is the Steward of Gondor—eating his meal of vegetables and meat with Pippin standing guard near him in the great white and black court of Minas Tirith. Denethor asks if Pippin can sing, and after a little hesitation, Pippin begins a very mournful song while Denethor continues to stuff baby tomatoes in his mouth with the juice squirting out, which reminds the viewer more of a savage eating than of a cultured head of state. All throughout this song the scene moves in a very deliberate procession of shots. First, the horses are shown galloping, which cuts to the soldiers riding, and then to the orcs—far outnumbering the 100 or so soldiers of Gondor—appearing in the ruins. The next sequence involves a shot of Denethor eating, a shot of Faramir calling the charge, and a shot of Pippin’s face filled with sadness during his song. Moving back to the field, a wide shot of the soldiers riding with Osgiliath in the distance is shown, followed by a single orc drawing back his bow string, and consequently all of the orcs doing the same. The camera cuts back to Faramir’s face, then Denethor eating messily again, and finally back to Faramir’s fearful but determined face. The last series involves the release of a single orc arrow, followed immediately by the release of all the arrows from the orcs, and, finally, a single drop of blood red tomato juice rolling down Denethor’s chin.
Each and every one of these shots contributes to the whole of the scene and they all carry significance; Jackson would not have included them in the scene if they did not. The shots between the galloping of the horses and the orcs appearing are meant to represent how these soldiers bravely continue towards this hopeless battle despite the great odds, which allows the audience to fear for and respect these noble soldiers. The shots of Denethor eating are meant to make the audience disgusted that he could be sitting comfortably in his hall, eating, while his son is riding off to his death. In contrast, Pippin’s face is shown at times while he is singing to demonstrate that Pippin understands the direness of the situation. When the scene depicts the many hundreds of orcs getting ready to fire their arrows, the whole audience furrows their brows in fear for the brave men. But as the audience hears the zing of the hundreds of arrows as they are released, they gasp in despair. The most significant shot in this whole montage is that of the blood coloured tomato juice running down Denethor’s chin because it represents the death of all these soldiers; without ever having to see it, the audience knows that all of the soldiers have been killed. This scene is, indeed, “one of the master strokes of Jackson’s directorial career” (Overstreet) in evoking, not only genuine emotion on screen, but in the audience as well. These shots are meant to draw the audience even more into the story, and allow them to relate to the emotions of all of the characters. Even though the audience has—most likely—never been in the same situation as the characters on screen, they can relate to the basic human emotions shown and expressed in each shot. “It’s basic human emotional stuff. It’s friendship, it’s courage, it’s loyalty, it’s love, it’s fear, it’s good vs. evil,” (Jackson) and any human can relate to this.
Yet even these vastly emotional scenes, along with every scene of the trilogy, would be considerably lessened without the music that accompanies them. Howard Shore, the composer for the trilogy, “has handcrafted the entire score and the result is very exciting. It has one consistent musical voice; yet at the same time reflects all the different cultures in Middle-earth,” (Jackson, The Lord of the Rings: The Making of the Movie Trilogy). For the first scene being analyzed he uses a generous amount of flutes in a very slow rhythm to emphasize the sadness of the scene, which creates a very haunting, melancholy sound. These flutes become trumpets as the soldiers start to gallop across the field of Pelennor that stands between Minas Tirith and Osgiliath, which creates in the audiences’ mind determination on the part of the soldiers. Yet the most significant piece of the scenes is Billy Boyd’s (Pippin’s) song during the montage scene. The words themselves reflect the scene and evoke grief in the audience:
Home is behind,
The world ahead,
And there are many paths to tread.
To the edge of night,
Until the stars are all alight.
Mist and shadow.
Cloud and shade.
All shall fade.
All shall fade.
(Return of the King)
The words are mournful, and sung without hope and with great sorrow. These words, coupled with the sounds of the orchestra, create a great power of emotion in the scenes, and help direct the audience to the overall despairing tone of these sequences. Simply by hearing the music in these scenes, the audience can feel the hopelessness of this situation.
These two scenes have been directed to perfection by Jackson. The aim is emotion, which is carried through the deliberate shots and details of each scene, as well as in the faces of all the characters. The music helps to infuse the scenes with emotional charge, and help to convey the despair that each character feels to the audience. These scenes are very powerful because they successfully deliver both feeling and emotion, so that not only the film conveys these, but the audience feels grief and despair in their own hearts. The audience recognizes the emotions in these scenes that make the movie seem all the more real, that make the characters seem all the more human.
Jackson, Peter, dir. Return of the King. Perf. Billy Boyd, John Noble, David Wenham. New Line Cinema, 2003
Jackson, Peter, Interviews with the director www.lordoftherings.net/
Noble, John, Interview with Denethor www.lordoftherings.net/
Overstreet, Jeffery, Review promontoryartists.org/
Sibley, Brian. Lord of the Rings: The Making of the Movie Trilogy. New York: Houghton Mufflin Company, 2002.
Wenham, David. Interview with Faramir www.lordoftherings.net/