I was in a generally teary mood yesterday and so I cried at the theater, too. Another one of those weird conjunctions between life and art had manifested, and I had thought a great deal about journeys during the day.
I didn’t cry because of the attendance, although they told me they had only sold seven advance tickets for the showing (and there ended up being something like fifteen people in 124-seat room, which has to have been a disappointment for the promoters. I was there early anticipating a line to enter and cosplayers and there was nothing of the kind). I think that because of that I laughed less than I might have with a bigger audience. For me, though, it was neat to sit in the sweet spot of the theater and feel very alone with the film, as if all of that art had been created just for me. The “special greeting” from Peter Jackson was kind of lame — it was essentially just, “thanks for coming to the film.”
I cried — I don’t know. For the journey? The one that the dwarves were on, certainly. I think I’ve become so involved in their fates myself, even beyond my identifications with Thorin Oakenshield as a character, that I’ve become very sensitive to their homelessness, their ragtag quality, but also to their sheer perseverance and refusal to abandon each other. It’s more than anxious attachment now; rather, it’s become love, and inevitably, grief. Now that I’ve seen the end of the trilogy, I’m much more conscious that this is just as much “Thorin’s last journey,” as it is an unexpected journey for Bilbo, aware that I know something about Thorin fate that he doesn’t know at this point, and which makes his struggles more poignant to me.
I looked through this blog and think I never posted about the effect that the extended edition of this film had on me. At three hours and five minutes (I didn’t stay for all the credits), it’s too long, still — but at the same time, I feel like the extended edition humanizes the film a great deal. We get more cameos of several of the dwarves, for instance. The singing of the Goblin King restores humor to the narrative at a very dramatic moment and makes the film more childlike — one of the chief critique points of those who viewed the film as a whole negatively. We see the fauntling Bilbo; we get a better sense of the vibe in the Shire. The world is fleshed out more fully. I am left in a quandary about which version I enjoy more, for I do like the dramatic pace of the theater version as well. In the end, I always resolve the problem by going to the bathroom during the White Council scenes, and I did that again this time. And I continue to watch with rapt attention during the fight scene as the dwarves escape Goblin Town. Maybe I’m crying for that — that my opportunities to see that on the big screen in all its glory will be rare in the future. I will have to seek them out. I still feel like I discover new moments every time I see those sequences.
Also, the extended edition holds that particular scene where Bilbo eavesdrops on Elrond and Thorin notices Bilbo eavesdropping and we see him react as Elrond notes Thorin’s heritage of madness. This moment is tremendously heartbreaking — and also sets up the tragedy of the later chapters more effectively. Here, again, I found myself crying — for Thorin? for me? I wonder if we will ever see the scene Armitage referred to where Thorin explains to Bilbo what it was like to grow up inside a mountain. But this moment is also valuable for the way that it inserts Thorin’s vulnerability back into the story.
The film is so rich — there is so much to see — and the extended edition displays Jackson’s churrigueresque qualities as filmmaker, his need to overdecorate every scene, often to the breaking point, his control freak tendencies. But I’ve bought in, so in the words of the German hymn, ich kann mich nicht satt sehen — I can’t see myself full, or I can’t see enough to satisfy myself. I am always looking for more, wanting to see more, understand more of this film. The sheer richness of the film overwhelmed me and reminded me of everything I still want to think about — rejoice in.
The miraculousness of the dwarves’ ongoing survival — as I watched it this time — underlined their vulnerability for me. What I used to sense in the final confrontation in this film between Thorin and Azog (I see I never published that post, either — I’ve got work to do! and seeing Richard Armitage work makes me want to work again, as well) is now heightened. Because I’m aware of the short thread of Thorin’s life, I see more acutely the pressure he feels toward the end of the film — his awareness that it is now or never, that now is the point at which he needs to confront his fears, even if he is smaller, more vulnerable, and outnumbered.
He steps up to face his destiny, bring it what it may. This, too, made me cry.