Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Livinghigh was here at 2:38 PM /

I'm a maniac

When you drop a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book for a VCD of Peter Jackson’s The Two Towers, you know that you’re a maniac. I told myself this as I put Marquez back on to his shelf and clutched Jackson closer to my heart. This was the day after I had seen Jackson’s magnum opus ‘Return of the King’, the third instalment of Tolkien’s ‘Lord of the Ring’, and the hangover was self-evident.

For a ring junkie like me, almost every scene in the movie was emotionally charged. Like the one where Gandalf charged across the Pelennor fields, chasing away the dragon birds that were attacking the Gondor soldiers. Or the one where Aragorn faces the Dead People on the Paths of the Dead, with Gimli and Legolas behind him Or the one where Pippin looks into the palantir and sees Sauron, the Dark Lord. With due apologies for all the jargon, I would hasten to add that I draw the emotionally charged line at Legolas doing a jig on an oversized elephant’s posterior.

It felt strange to discover that every lungi-clad occupant of the theatre was clapping and hooting whenever those scenes rolled in, including the one with the elephant-dance. But then, I should be an extremely elitist nincompoop indeed, had I reasoned Tolkien’s narrative to be the hallmark of the upper crust. As my sceptic Punjabi friend pointed out, it is not – but then, he’s the sort of person who returned the book within a week of borrowing it, so what on Middle Earth does he know?

When Frodo tells Sam to leave him just outside Shelob’s lair, I was speechless, for Tolkien had never written that scene. Purists have identified more than half a dozen incidents in the movie that simply do not happen in the book, but I suppose Peter Jackson has artistic license and his gleaming new Oscar to vouchsafe his actions. So what if Arwen doesn’t even appear for a single frame in the book – by seeing the soppy dream in the movie, she makes all the romantics sitting in the front row go aflutter. So what if Eowyn doesn’t fall in love with Faramir in the movie, though they marry at the end of the book – perhaps Jackson reasoned that romance would rob the Aragorn-Arwen romance of some of its sheen.

The bone of contention however is the notable absence of the last few chapters in Tolkien’s book, which contain the ‘scouring’ of the shire – Tolkien’s testament to the dangers of industrialization in the modern world. But can we realistically imagine an audience cheering a campaign to rid the world of plastics – we’re not really that noble, and elephant-acrobatics still get precedence.

Tokien’s spirit, no doubt a trifle disappointed, will recover. I hope Marquez does too.


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