TOLKIEN -Film Review & reflections upon the life & work of the great man - Anne Maria Clarke
TOLKIEN is an American biographical drama film directed by Dome Karukoski and written by David Gleeson and Stephen Beresford. It is about the early life of English professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The film stars Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins, Colm Meaney, and Derek Jacobi. Released in the UK on May 3, 2019 and in the USA on May 10, 2019.
Be all this as it may be, I personally found it lovely, even whilst being aware that Tolkien himself was always at pains to spell out that his work was not allegorical in any way. Faery is an altogether different realm he told us & as independent & remote from the everyday as it is possible to be.
He was absolutely clear that he was ' recording ' rather than ' inventing' his tales. The characters & themes were not concocted, nor were they mirrors of his personal experiences, transposed onto a mythological landscape.
It was his genuine humility that no doubt facilitated his entry into the realms of Faerie & his genius that enabled him to render it into literary form.
This being said - a writers personal experience of darkness, of falling into shadow as it were, of losing one's parents as a child, of coming so very close to death, & perhaps experiencing a kind of death of one's former self - which one imagines is the inner reality of war - is where the self can either built or destroyed & in this sense can facilitate the necessary empathy for understanding one's stories characters as they experience their own dark nights of the soul.
The film makers we are told were terribly hamstrung by their inability to reference scenes from previous films, their copyright being held by Warner Brothers, so their allusions to beloved scenes from the films in the interlacing of Tolkien's actual life with his stories were weaker than might have been & and perhaps a little clumsy in places. However if one knows the work from the books and is not fixated with the Peter Jackson rendering, one can fill in all the gaps quite adequately, as one clearly does when reading and sometimes what is not rendered visually can be more powerful, more intimate.
This is primarily a film about relationships, a period drama if you like about Tolkien's early life, the inspiration of his mother, his early friendship bonds, his love of antique languages and his relationship with Edith, who was to become his wife and lifelong companion. And this tale it tells most beautifully.
To my mind Nicholas Hoult & Lily Collins are very well cast. There is a sincerity to Hoult's performance, so very reminiscent of what one imagines the great man might have been like in real life. The kind of man who for over twenty years pretended to be Father Christmas & sent letters to his children every year from the North Pole regaling them with painstakingly illustrated tales of polar bears and the like set against remote snowclad mountains & the spectacular Northern lights. This was a man who in a very real sense, like his character Frodo was capable of carrying the Ring & against all odds of vanity & hubris, in spite of his obvious genius and this was a man who wholeheartedly fell in love with his teenage sweetheart & remained so for the rest of his life.
Both orphans living in the same lodgings as teenagers, they shared an immediate intimacy and even though their relationship was forbidden by Tolkien's guardian, the two held fast to their feelings and married shortly after Tolkien graduated from Oxford. It was Edith who nursed him back to health when he returned with trench fever from WW1 & some say it was she who inspired the writing of Luthien, as she danced in a hemlock glade during his convalescence. A scene romantically recreated for the film. Those who know the story of Luthien & Beren that pulses at the heart of Tolkien's Silmarillion will understand the significance of allusion. Those who have studied the great man's life by heart as it were will know too, the significance of the allusion in his personal and married life.
She was always my Elvin princess - he wrote to his sons after her death in 1971, two years before him - & she knew it.
More fairy-stories, myths, legends and books by
Anne Maria Clarke
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