Lord of the Rings (1978)

LotR 1978The Lord of the Rings

Watched this out of curiosity and liked it actually. This adaptation faces the same challenges as Jackson’s. The main one is length. This version makes many of the same exclusions as Jackson’s adaptation, no Bombidil, a large focus on Moria. But is different in that it stops with The Two Towers.

Jackson has taken visual cues from this version. This is obvious in the characters’ dress and the landscape, but it is also clear in the framing and blocking of specific scenes, e.g. the ringwraith sniffing out the hobbits on the road and the ringwraiths ritually killing the hobbits in beds they discover are empty. There is no other visual reference for these moments. So the duplication must come from here.

A few comments I typed up while I was watching it:

  • This tells the story of the original rather than adapts it. It is not looking for naturalism or immersion in the action. I think this is a smart choice that is closer to the novel’s structure as a tale of men telling stories to each other.
  • This version is also more interested in presenting the storytelling of the original in the film, e.g. Aragorn telling a story by the fire, the celebration when the hobbits arrive at Rivendale.
  • The discursive quality makes the mythic seem mythic. Myths are retooled to the moment. They imply a scene of storytelling.
  • The translation of Aragorn, “the man of the West” as an Indian makes this very British myth-making oddly American. The effect is very odd and very interesting, even if it is left undeveloped.
  • The multi-media stuff is great. It feels inventive and crafty (in both the literal and “off” senses of the word), and I really loved it.

Interesting detail: the random elf on the road at the end of the first book is changed in both adaptations in telling ways. In 1978, the change compresses the narrative by introducing Legolas and eliminating an unnecessary character. In 2000, it introduces a love interest absent from the original and necessary for the Hollywood production both because of narrative conventions of the new form and for the marketing demands (i.e. female movie stars to broaden the demographic appeal).