Sunday, December 7, 2008

1,000th post: LOTR and the Macbeth Retort

Tonight the third and last Lord of the Rings movie, The Return of the King, was on the teeve. I didn't mean to watch it but I just happened to switch on the telly as I was passing and there was David Wenham as the noble Lord Faramir, skewering Orcs left and right, and I was gone for all money. (I recently saw Australia and am now planning a David Wenham Tribute Post.)

If you count this blog as a continuation of Pavlov's Cat, which is all it is really, then this is my 1,000th post: 871 at Pavlov's Cat and 129 here at Still Life With Cat. And I dedicate it to Shakespeare, Tolkien and Peter Jackson.

Because my favourite moment in this movie is the one where the warrior maiden Eowyn, in full battle gear and therefore not recognisable as a woman, faces down the Lord of the Nazgul on the plain before the gates of Minas Tirith. After she's cut off the head of his disgusting pterosaur airborne battle steed thingy and they're face to face on the field of battle, with her in full armour but still lithely dodging his nasty giant mace, he warns her: 'No man can kill me.'

Whereupon Eowyn lifts her visor to reveal the angelic face of Miranda Otto, shakes her blonde locks free, replies fiercely and triumphantly 'I am no man!' and stabs him straight through the face, upon which he crumples up, collapses like a piece of mouldy fruit, and dissolves into air. It's not quite what happens in the book, but the man/woman exchange is pretty much the same.

For those who may not remember the end of Macbeth the Scottish play, the Weird Sisters have shown Macbeth an apparition saying '... none of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth.' By the end, desperate and drunk and silly on hubris because of the witches' prophecies, Macbeth faces Macduff, who's mad with grief and rage over the slaughter of his wife and children and hell-bent on revenge, and says 'I bear a charméd life, which must not yield / To one of woman born.' Whereupon Macduff replies, in one of the most chilling lines in all of Shakespeare and that is saying a great deal, 'Despair thy charm: / And let the angel whom thou still hast served [he means Lucifer, I think] / Tell thee Macduff was from his mother's womb / Untimely ripp'd.' And swordfights him off the stage, returning shortly with his severed head.

The scene in the movie (and, I'm sure, the book), warning the would-be invincible to beware of language and not to take prophecies literally, is a nice bit of homage. And I was very happy to see it again.

11 comments:

Barry Leiba said...

Lovely post, and happy thousandth, Kerryn!

The LOTR set is one of the best movies ever made (I consider the three to be one — and they were filmed together). And, yes, Eowyn's scene is great.

For another... interesting... movie, while we're talking about Macbeth, go find Scotland, PA. Chris Walken makes a wonderful Macduff character.

genevieve said...

Regrettably, what she says is much more exciting:

'A sword rang as it was drawn, "Do what you will; but I will hinder it, if I may."
"Hinder me? Thou fool. No living man may hinder me."

Then Merry heard of all sounds in that hour the strangest. It seemed that Dernhelm (Eowyn's alias - at this point she is not known to Merry as herself) laughed, and the clear voice was like the ring of steel. "But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Eowyn I am, Eomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him."
(from the chapter, The Battle of the Pelennor Fields, various eds.)

Quite a study might be made of Eowyn's 'treatment' by Aragorn later too - he goes into the hospice where she and Faramir lie wounded and heals them (she is struck by the mace of a Black Rider immediately after killing the Nazgul.) No film script has time, alas, for this kind of detail.

Saw quite a bit of the film, too, then flicked over and found I'd missed most of the AFI awards. Grrr.

genevieve said...

And happy millenial post! sorry.

*torriell

Zarquon said...

It's a Grand total.

Also in the book, it's Merry's dagger which causes the Witch-King to vapourise, and he's not a man he's a Halfling

Fine said...

I'm looking forward to the Davidd Wenham Tribute Post.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Thanks Barry, glad you enjoyed it.

Genevieve (I take it you mean 'what she says in the book"?) et al -- yes, I did look it up in the book, of course. That scene works brilliantly on the page but I don't think if the movie done it word for word, not a lot of people would have been able to follow it as spoken dialogue -- Tolkien's just a little wordy, don't you find? (There's also the timing factor again -- holding up a battle scene with a five-minute monologue might not be the way to go, movie-wise.)

My guess is that giving the honour of destroying the Nazgul to Eowyn rather than Merry was one of the ways Peter Jackson was trying to boost the presence of women in the story. Because let's face it, Tolkien didn't give him much there to work with!

Fine, the David Wenham Trubute Post will be lavishly illustrated.

Zoe said...

I am very much looking forward to the David Wenham tribute post.

Also, I have a friend called Eowyn, how 'bout that? Yes, she is feisty.

And happy 1000th post, and here's to many more.

gracerp

Bernice said...

I'm looking forward to your opinion on 'Australia'. Please? Pretty please?

JahTeh said...

I put my feet up, grabbed the remote to tape this and remove nearly an hour of ads, very annoying ads but anything for David Wenham. The blonde Elf isn't bad for dessert.

TimT said...

Rather interesting to read this about the Macbeth line, as just today I finished a sequence of three parodic sonnets in which, amongst other things, I use the lines:

I celebrate my snot, and sing my snot
That is from out my nose so timely picked.


As you can see, they're about nose-picking.

Dr Paul said...

The Eowyn/Witch-King/Merry scene was my favourite moment in the book. As a pedantic point, Merry doesn't actually vapourise the Witch-King in the book; he enables Eowyn to do so by hamstringing the WK with an enchanted Dunedain blade which then makes him vulnerable to Eowyn's sword stroke