15 years before, on the 20th of December, 2001, the Fellowship Of The Ring film was worldwide released. This is a sentence of uttermost importance for a multitude of people – both those for which the movie was their first contact with Tolkien’s work, and for those of us who had previously read and re-read the books, awaiting the film adaptation like a messianic figure. This text is written from the view of one belonging to the second category.
My first contact with the then upcoming movie was this trailer (https://youtu.be/2UDTbQrOGa0), which was included in the CD-ROM that accompanied an issue of the Greek PC-Master magazine. The times then being quite primitive, internet-wise, this particular CD-ROM obtained an artifact aura; an artifact being transferred house to house, with the trailer’s view reaching surpassing three digit limit. The sensation of seeing scenes and characters that you have known through books coming lucidly into image is something that can only be compared to the revival of these scenes and the acquaintance of the particular characters via the RPG road, though the two experiences differ widely. To be honest, this was one more reason to shed tears of join watching Gandalf in the aforementioned trailer.
The release of the Fellowship Of The Ring coincided with the first year of my student life; such a parallel (albeit only 3-year long) between one’s life and the Trilogy’s appearance is quite crucial: you can perceive it as an almost mythological vague matching of your trail with that of the characters, and also as an added layer of religious aura upon three successive Decembers. The wait up to the release date, the trailers’ appearance, the gradual increase of impatience as months and days drew closer, the ticket pre-purchase, and the last procession to the cinema venue: if someone can’t see it as a sort of yearly religious pilgrimage and ritual, then he should reconsider what he means by religiosity.
Be that as it may, 15 years ago, on the 20th of December 2001, I marched towards the cinema hall for the Fellowship’s evening premier. I had already heard some rumors (god knows where) for a certain editing of the book content, with the omission of certain scenes, rumors that had made me extra-anxious (up to then I had no relation with film versions of favourite books), and their confirmation (just before the movie start) by a friend that had already seen it just made me more fastidious – or so I thought.
“The World Is Changed
I Feel It In The Water
I Feel It In The Earth”
These words of Galadriel’s, at the utter beginning, disintegrated any worries. The successive appearance of the Last Alliance in front of Mordor’s borders during the Battle Dagorlad, the appearance of Isildur and Elendil, they were enough to make consecutive thrills crawl upon any informed viewer’s spine – even though I found Sauron’s armoured semblance to be quite different from what I had in mind through the books; my version was closer to the Nazgul appearance (let’s not forget that we knew Sauron as the Necromancer from the Hobbit, and in none of the three LOTR books do we have a direct glimpse of him). But what made the movie brand me forever was the first view of Shire, riding along Gandalf’s cart. As one friend once wrote “First time that one saw Shire in the LOTR movies>Birth of one’s first child.” The Shire is the point zero for both Hobbit and LOTR, the point from where emerges the Road that reaches all places of Middle Earth, but also a grounding and rest point, where you return after the Adventure.
So, yes, they did cut out Bombadil and the Old Forest and the Barrow Downs; yes, the Hobbiton-Bucklebury Ferry distance was trimmed. Glorfindel (named after a Hero of the First Age) was replaced by Arwen, and Boromir was depicted as slightly more villainous than he was. There was more stuff that we had unearthed, more divergence from the book. Still, we had Gandalf and Frodo spreading chills during the revival of the book’s second chapter; Strider’s first appearance in the Prancing Pony, through the glow of his pipe; Elrond’s council; Caradhras, the Gates of Moria, and Moria itself; the Fall of Gandalf, the ideal (cast-wise) Galadriel, Boromir’s Fall, the Breaking of the Fellowship. All these, whose images had already been created through the books, were recalibrated, leading to a compound image of Middle Earth, one we carry inside us for 15 years and counting, as bright as then. Though my pre-films Middle Earth has a different aura, one that I can only slightly trace now, the Middle Earth that was co-developed by both books and films is as emotionally dynamic as it.
I prefer to see both trilogies (book and film) as a solid artifact. On the occasion that I must choose my favourite movie of the three, it is the Fellowship of the Ring that shines. Not just because it was the first time that I saw a book-based world come to visual life. Not just because (as is the case with the first book too) the plot flow is steady without the turbulence inherent in having lots of parallel events. But mostly because the Fellowship retains something of Hobbit’s fairytale aura; because colours are more vivid here, though they tend to gradually fade as things get more serious; because we still have an Adventure here, a Fellowship, a smaller scale in comparison to the Armies and events of the other books, hence one in which you can be incorporated more easily.
I do not know exactly how many times I have watched the Fellowship Of The Ring – the number is certainly above 30. My view of it not only has not been compromised, but each view confirms my belief that this is the most important Opus of recent years, as was the case for the book during the second half of the 20th century. Each time I start watching it I hear a paraphrased Gandalf: “So it begins, the great story of our age.”