lotesse: (lotr_movie!sam)
I've been watching LotR movie documentaries, and I’m sorry, but I just can’t get with their rationale that what they did to Faramir was in any way necessary. I've tried to see their point, read around, tried to fall in love with the filmic vision of my characters at this narrative point, and pretty much totally failed. Mainly because I think the Henneth Annun chapters of the book have plenty of tension, drama, and anxiety.

Because while Faramir is a decent guy, a good man, he’s still a Man, and that entails a certain amount of Not Getting It. This is what he says to Frodo, when all is revealed: “If you took this thing on yourself, unwilling, at others’ asking, then you have pity and honour to me. And I marvel at you: to keep it hid, and not to use it. You are a new people and a new world to me.” Okay thar, Captain Missing-the-Point, thanks for playing, but no.

Faramir constructs a false dichotomy: either Frodo must be an innocent, unwilling victim of circumstance, or he must he the sort of person who would use the Ring. But of course Frodo is neither. He willingly took up the Ring and the Quest, though he does entirely deserve Faramir’s pity for it. But to my mind, the main tension of these chapters lies is Faramir’s well-meaning, kind-hearted paternalism, in his persistence in seeing the hobbits as weak little things in need of protection and guidance.

Of course, this happens to all four hobbits, and more than once. Pippin only later saves Faramir from Denethor’s crazy because everyone assume him to be too small to take much notice of. More directly to the point, Theoden tries to leave Merry behind when the Rohirrim ride to war. If he’d succeeded in that, how much more grim would the story have been? Only Merry’s act of disobedience stands between Eowyn and death – and who’s to say that the Lord of the Nazgul would have survived the battle without Merry’s intervention?

By Mannish standards, hobbits aren’t worth much. Their strength is not manly strength, nor is their wisdom. They’re good at loving, and at hiding and being silent – but as Boromir demonstrates at the beginning of the Quest with his whole “thief in the night” business, Men don’t really value silence, even when they really should. Hobbits have no part in any sort of warrior ethos. And so, again and again, Men react to them paternalistically, preotecting instead of trusting, though hobbits will ultimately save them all.

In Ithilien, Frodo understands this. From the beginning, he works very hard to maintain authority and keep the upper hand: “’My part in the Company … was appointed to me by Elrond of Imladris himself before the whole Council. On that errand I came into this country, but it is not mine to reveal to any outside the Company. Yet those who claim to oppose the Enemy would do well not to hinder it.’ Frodo’s tone was proud, whatever he felt, and Sam approved of it; but it did not appease Faramir.”

Frodo’s not usually one to so nakedly grasp at authority, but he understands, I think, that he has to do everything he can to establish himself in Faramir’s eyes as something other than a victim.

Because here’s the way I think it could have gone: even after resisting the personal temptation of the Ring, don’t you think Faramir might have taken it for Frodo’s own good? In his eyes, he’s got these exhausted little hobbits, standing at the edge of great terrors. They’re being guided by Gollum and Faramir doesn’t trust Gollum. Of course, neither does Frodo, but being hobbitlike Frodo understands that sometimes the perfect is the enemy fo the good – Gollum is all he has, and so he’ll follow him. But by Faramir’s lights, wouldn’t it make a deal more sense for him to take the Ring away from these two little helpless lambs and deal with it himself, being as he is both Strong and Manly, not to mention Virtuous?

The tension that runs throughout the Ithilien scenes rests on trust and autonomy: does Faramir see Frodo as an equal, and adult, someone who can make his own decisions? Or does he patronize the little guy and distrust him with the fate of the world? Faramir is intelligent and diplomatic and thoughtful – and that acutally could work against Frodo, because the logical action might very well be for Faramir to take on the mission himself. After all, his resources both personal and material are far more extensive.

Faramir with the Ring would, of course, result in disaster, because Faramir is still too politically minded to manage it. Paradoxically, the very qualities in Frodo that would seem to be his weaknesses are those that allow him to succeed in the quest – being small and quiet and sweet, he ultimately does not desire power, and so the Ring has a very hard time twisting him. Because what could it really promise Frodo? Power? What on earth would he do with power, if he were to receive it?

Everything could have been ruined, right then and there. And the moral complexities of Tolkien's Faramir only heighten the tension, because I think some of us may very well doubt Frodo by that point too – Faramir looks awfully shiny and competent. Our uncertainty adds to the confusion, because we don't really know what we want to happen. But ultimately it is Frodo's burden to bear, and his alone, and it's a credit to Faramir's sense that he gets that.

The films' messing up of things galls at me, because those are my absolute favorite chapters of the whole epic. We go from "What's taters?" to "I love him, whether or no," and then on to "do not love the bright sword for its sharpness." Sigh.

Date: 11 Jun 2009 06:28 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] aiffe
aiffe: (Rainbowbending)

I also loved Faramir in the book. I also spent much of the second movie WTFing. I also watched the documentaries about the making of the movie and said, "What? NO!"

IIRC, PJ's point with that was that no man could resist the siren call of the Ring--but obviously Faramir did in canon, so this means what, Tolkien's a bad writer? Ultimately, I think the Ring is about temptation, and there's no temptation without choice. Faramir's "I would not touch it if I found it lying by the highway" (paraphrasing, here) was a victory where Boromir had unfortunately failed, and highly relevant considering Denethor's favoritism.

Date: 11 Jun 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)
I don't thin kit's bad writing on Tolkien's part because Faramir is intelligently not letting himself make that choice, you know? Had he worn the ring, he would be as tempted and corrupted by it as another person. (Well, not all people are the same, but he wouldn't be immune to it.) He was wiser than Boromir and understood the nature of the temptation so didn't open himself for it.

I wasn't bothered by that element in the movie. It was totally not the book, but in my head this was a different Faramir who just hadn't gotten to that level of wisdom yet so had to learn it through experience because they want to play it out dramatically. But I can totally understand other people not liking the change.

Date: 11 Jun 2009 09:47 pm (UTC)From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)
I think even the first time I read it I probably admired Faramir for what seemed like choosing not to be tempted. He's got nothing to prove, doesn't need to test himself. He's smart enough to know to stay away from the thing since he understand it a little.

But yeah, I never really questioned the power of the ring either.

Date: 12 Jun 2009 12:47 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] aiffe
aiffe: (Default)
Oh, I meant that part sarcastically--like, that PJ was insinuating Tolkien was a bad writer by calling that a necessary change. Like he knew better than the master. LotR is one of my favorite works of literature, I'm not calling Tolkien's talent into question.

Date: 12 Jun 2009 12:52 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)
Heh--I totally used your post to go on my own tangent...I think I figured you were being somewhat tongue in cheek--but good to know for sure!

Date: 12 Jun 2009 01:11 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
sistermagpie: Moon magic (Moon)
I give adapters a little benefit of the doubt on things more being wrong for their purposes. For instances, there were a lot of big changes in the movie that I didn't think of as improvement on the book, but just something they changed because of something they thought would work better in a movie that wasn't internal etc.

Other changes I think were maybe made for the same reason but I think they were just wrong about it and could have done it the way they did in the book.:-) And then, of course, there are going to be the things that a director's like "This never worked for me--wtf is up with that?" When thousands of people are like...um, worked for me, dude. Don't know what your problem is.

Date: 12 Jun 2009 12:52 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] sistermagpie
sistermagpie: Classic magpie (Default)
Heh--I totally used your post to go on my own tangent...I think I figured you were being somewhat tongue in cheek--but good to know for sure!

Date: 12 Jun 2009 07:04 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] ce_jour_la
ce_jour_la: (Tolkien || Faramir || Ithilien Ranger)
Totally agree with this. I loved Tolkien's Faramir, loved that he was the one Man who wasn't tempted by the Ring--who didn't have the personality to be tempted by the Ring. I also love what Peter Jackson did with his films (with a few notable exceptions), but Faramir was both confusing and a disappointment.

This has a huge impact on his interaction with Frodo and Sam, and I think it's why it's so different than anyone else's.

I also had a good deal more to say about this, but it's ridiculously late and I'm going to stop making sense. Thank you for posting this--I agree wholeheartedly and might have more at a later point. :)

Date: 15 Jun 2009 09:33 am (UTC)From: [personal profile] ilthit
ilthit: (Default)
Let me say, first of all, I've never liked book!Faramir. He was just another noble Man to take space better reserved for actually interesting characters. Movie!Faramir had conflict and angst so, and I realize this is anathema for Tolkien lovers in which number I do count myself, I actually thought him more interesting and therefore a better character in the movie.

Was it necessary to change the character to add tension? No, I don't think so either. Then I think they could also just have cut a lot of the Faramir stuff - but since they didn't, they might have worked better to find a more book-like tension to the passage, like you suggest. (I wouldn't have had Faramir laugh the Ring off, though, not when it was supposed to be so powerful - but I would have written him as already having made up his mind to resist it.)

daughter of the sea, oregano's first cousin


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