I recently re-visited your great Lord of the Rings Trilogy. I was very young when they first came out in theaters, and had never heard of the books before. My mom was working as a middle school teacher at the time, and I remember she brought home some bookmarks that featured the principal actors on them. We weren’t even going to see the film, but for some reason we were moved to go to the theater. We were not even familiar with your other work at that time.
We left the theater absolutely awed by the work and also quite upset because we had no idea that the story was told in three parts. The prospect of the wait for the second movie felt as though it was going to be interminable. Finally the release day of The Two Towers arrived and we went to see it (3 times in theaters, in fact) and were once more forced to wait for the grand resolution. Only this time, neither my mom nor I could wait. We went out and purchased Tolkien’s masterpiece for ourselves. This did not in any way diminish our excitement for release of The Return of the King.
There are very few movies that have made me cry; Simon Birch is the only other one that comes quickly to mind. However, I found myself weeping at the powerful imagery of Frodo’s cheeks, once more blossoming with color and health as he steps onto the deck of the ship set to bear him away from Middle Earth. Wow. It was a movie-going experience that I will never forget. It left an indelible mark upon my movie-experiencing soul.
My latest viewing of the films marked approximately the 10th time that I have seen them. This viewing was prompted by the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug as well as my recently begun study of sound design for film. I pride myself on my ability to analyze a film’s construction fairly critically during any given viewing, but it has taken me these 10 times to only just begin to appreciate your film’s construction.
Your grasp of the visual vernacular is so complete. I love it when a movie takes full advantage of the visual medium that is film. In particular, I was conscious of your use of camera movements to achieve wonderfully choreographed instances of reframing. The care taken to compose complex shots with activity in the fore, mid, and backgrounds makes every frame visually complex. Besides all of this, I would watch your movies just to revel in your use of close-ups. The close-ups in The Lord of the Rings films are some of the most beautiful film tableaux that I have ever seen.
Not only are your films visually stunning, but you are truly a sound designer’s director. People always talk about directors as being an actor’s director, but you are a sound designer’s director, in that you respect sound as a vital aspect of a film and make allowances to let it sing. Now that I have spent a quarter studying sound production and post-production I have a new respect for all of the work that goes into making a battle sequence sound real.
I am in awe of your artistry and all of the work that went into those films. They have had a lasting impact on the visual landscape; it is easy to see the influence of Helm’s Deep and the battle before Mordor’s gates in epic fantasy films of recent years.
But, before this letter grows much too long, I want to conclude by thanking you for making movies. Your movies inspire me to make movies. I believe that your films are the reasons movies exist. I look forward to your next work.