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LOTR makes an impact in Russia

February 12, 2002 at 2:48 pm by Tehanu  - 

Saaska wrote in with this translation of an article in the Russian press – many thanks for all the hard work involved, Saaska!

You can read the original online at Gazeta.ru

THE LORD OF THE RINGS HAS RETURNED TO ITS OWN TIMES

By Ostap Karmodi

Moscow cinemas are conquered by the ancient Middle-Earth. Delayed twice, The Lord of the Rings makes it to the screens at last.

We’ve been missing epics. Last ten years’ movies were mostly personal and small scale. Everyone was interested with the problems of the ‘little man’: little boy, little maidservant, little killer. Little piglet, for that matter. Even what could be called an epic actually was not: Gladiator and Pearl Harbor and all that were merely studies of how history strides on the backs of little people. Movies of the scale and ambition of Star Wars have become things of the past. Even the prequel of that epic has turned out to be not a saga of the Rebel struggle against the Evil Empire but a personal history of a little boy. When the smoke of the fallen Berlin Wall settled, it had seemed for a while that the History has ended — only the small purely personal histories were left.

September 11th has put that all back in place. The History stood up in full wild beauty from the ashes of fallen skyscrapers. World has once again been divided into Us and Them. Evil Empires like USSR or the Third Reich have been hard to find, but the Evil Axis has partly taken their place. People have regained the sixth sense — the sense of a fellowship, and the seventh one — a sense of fear of an unknown danger ready literally to fall down form the sky. With these feelings came a social demand for some grand work about the struggle between Good and Evil.

That’s were Peter Jackson with his
The Lord of the Rings came in handy.

Jackson has of course started to think about transferring Tolkien to screen a good deal earlier than the first Boeing jet hit the Twin Towers. At that point the shooting has already been finished and editing was in progress. The director has perhaps sensed something in the air, got a glimpse of ‘political winds’ changing. Now it is only at the first look strange how not Spielberg or Lucas but a marginal from new Zealand was trusted with the Lord of the Rings. It is really very appropriate.

Peter Jackson has shot no big mainstream movie in his life. His first one was Bad Taste a picture about how two competing galactic fast food nets send their emissaries to Earth. And not to open outlets, but to refill their stock of human meat. his next movie was a wicked parody at Muppet Show, where little frogs and pigs sniff coke and have chaotic sex after shows. A few horrors for every taste followed, then a parody at documentary which fooled half of Australia.

And then Jackson has in some incomprehensible
way acquired the rights for the adaptation
of Tolkien’s trilogy and set about finding money.

The Lord of the Rings has reached such a kind of status that no one except a downright marginal would think about transferring it on screen. Everyone has become used to the thought that a movie based on this book won’t be possible to shoot until 2050 or better say 3075. At the moment we don’t have the funds, or technology, or whatever other excuse that came to mind. The movie was likely to be worse than the book and thus cause a wave of criticism (the cartoon adaptation of 1978 was a disaster). Lucases, Spielbergs and the like had no desire to risk the reputation. Others apparently thought ‘Well, if such giants don’t take it what hope do we have?’

That was how it came to be that the rights were laying about and Jackson, with no fear of god or devil, had but to take them up.

And to everyone’s benefit, not counting Lucas or Spielberg, of course. These guys got themselves a real competitor. With the first part of the epic out Jackson has instantly gained a star status. Perhaps the New Zealander’s good knowledge of the forces of evil is to thank for it — orcs and goblins were very convincing. The bad guys are shot with care and love — one can see that much painstaking work has went into their costumes and choreography. One of them is even reminiscent of Jackson’s fellow islanders, Maori, in battle coloring. And when, accompanied by the dull sound of hoofs, the Black Riders step into the picture, it’s seems quite like they are the main characters here. On the other hand, perhaps the decision to employ British actors has contributed — they can, as New York Times put it, pronounce the word ‘evil’ as if it had at least three syllables.

Perhaps the reason for the success is that the New Zealander does not completely belong to either American or European cinematic traditions and shoots every scene as required by the developing story and not as ‘it is done’. Also, beside telling the bare plot as the creators of Harry Potter did, Jackson has attempted to convey the very spirit of trilogy, sacrificing entire characters and plot lines (he had to: the movie is three hours as it stands).

But the crucial thing that the book had,
the involvement of the reader (and now the watcher)
in the Main Battle of good and Evil, has remained.

The only thing that one cut put up criticism for is a somewhat sketchy Frodo with a rather empty stare of sky-blue eyes possessing no psychological depth. Of course, Legolas and Gandalf, fat bumpkin of a Sam, and especially the brutal unkempt Boromir look more convincing. But even that criticism is easily overcome. Many won’t agree, but Frodo is not too convincing in the book as well. It is not required of him, for he is not a sovereign character but a conductor of that very same History. That hobbit legs are not hairy enough is not so easy to argue with. Well they aren’t, and it’s only left to put up with. Of course, the book is significantly stronger and deeper. But to transfer it on the screen better than Jackson did is apparently impossible. That said, those who have not read the book will like it, too. It has the everything that is required of a fantasy movie: dungeons, long and bloody sword fights, magic staffs…

The horde of critics prepared to take the ‘sacrilegious’ motion picture to pieces fell silent in astonishment and then exploded with an unrestrained hosanna. From now on the tolkienists will have to put up with The Lord of the Rings being associated not with one name as it was before, but with two: Tolkien and Jackson. Or even Jackson and Tolkien. Perhaps that is unfair. But it is still better than it would be had the movie not been shot. Or if it had been shot by someone other. Especially here and now.

Starting February 7th in Aurora, Almaz, America Cinema, Warshawa, Karo 1 and 2, Kodak Kinomir, Orbita, Pervomaisky, Pobeda, Pyat Zvezd, Pushkinsky, Rolan, Ekran, Electron, and the theater of CHL.

Posted in Old Special Reports on February 12, 2002 by

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