Saturday, November 12, 2016

a second Tolkien film (TOLKIEN'S ROAD)

So, while on the subject of Tolkien films, and picking up where I left off a month or so ago, there's another Tolkien film I've seen recently, this one on-line.

TOLKIEN'S ROAD is a short student film, made in 2014. About half an hour long, it's available free on You Tube (apparently there's no way to get it in more permanent form, e.g. on dvd) -- at any rate, not that I've found so far anyway.

To be fair, it's important not to hold this little film to too high a standard: it's not a professional release, it's been made available for free, and the whole thing is pretty much an ambitious student project.

That said, there's nothing in this film to warm the cockles of a Tolkien scholar's heart. This film is terrible. It takes the approach to Tolkien that appears in Humphrey Carpenter's radio play  IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED A TOLKIEN, in which JRRT wanders about muttering smaggabaggins at neighbors while burning breakfast, and J. I. M. Stewart's fictionalized Tolkien analogue Prof. J. B. Timbermill, who winds up sitting on the green chatting with hippies and motorcycle gang members, completely cut off from reality.

This film's Tolkien wanders around Oxford, occasionally meeting up with C. S. Lewis (we know it's Lewis because Tolkien calls him 'Jack' and he smokes a pipe) as well as running into characters from his mythology all the time. He's haunted by recurring nightmares in which he relives his experiences on the Western Front, seeing his friend G. B. Smith and the rest of the TCBS being bayonetted by orc-faced German officers. This ongoing trauma has prevented him from finishing THE BOOK OF LOST TALES, whereupon a quaint little man with furry feet steals Tolkien's only copy of the (unconvincingly neat and tidy) BOOK OF LOST TALES; the rest of the story is Tolkien's attempt to get it back while distracted by elf-maidens, confronted by what is either a balrog or a black rider, rescued by a Strider-analogue* and a Gandalf look-alike, &c, &c, &c. Like I said, it's quite short (only thirty-five minutes long) but seems a lot longer; it took me three tries to get all the way through it.

In the end, it's not the amateur nature of this production that puts me off, it's their conception of Tolkien. The idea of Tolkien as someone who wandered around with flowers in his hair, blowing off lectures, and generally hallucinating his way through life is so far from my conception of the man that I can't enjoy its presentation here. The character called 'Tolkien' here is closer to the protagonist of "The Sea Bell" than anything like the real JRRT. And  I've found I really care when I see a fictional portrayal of a real person that doesn't in any way correspond to what that person was really like, whether it's the many recent distorted portrayals of H. P. Lovecraft, the longer tradition of thinking that Conan Doyle in real life was anything like Sherlock Holmes (Holmes was far less gullible), and now the depiction of Tolkien as some kind of out-of-it loon. The real person was far more interesting; why not try portraying him as he was, or something at least approximating him.

Here's the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTCc6Z3dAZI



--JDR

*bizarrely, in the 'Prancing Pony' scene the locals sing a song lifted from the LotR Musical (one of the better numbers, luckily)


1 comment:

Doug Kane said...

Wow, that sounds truly horrible.