Scene of the Week: The Death of Gandalf
Welcoming another scene to our Scene of the Week, and it’s one from one of the greatest films of all time, and a moment which no one has ever forgotten - the death of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Not only did this scene make a mark on cinema history, it is one that has stuck with me. I will never forget the first time I saw it and the feeling I had during this emotional moment. It was unexpected, sad and left me, and I imagine many others, speechless, which is why this was an easy choice for this week’s segment.
With the group of mythical creature, known as The Fellowship of the Ring, well into their mission to destroy the powerful ring and end the war for Middle Earth, they hit a snag, which forces them to enter the Mines of Moria. As they work their way through, they draw attention to themselves causing them to run for their lives as they are chased by goblins and the fire beast known as a Balrog. The Fellowship manages to reach the end of the mines, but Gandalf fears that the Balrog will not stop, therefore turning round on the bridge leading them to their exit, to cast a spell. “YOU SHALL NOT PASS” yells Gandalf whilst he casts his magic. As the Balrog attempts to pursue The Fellowship, the bridge collapses sending the beast into the black abyss. With the beast defeated, a relieved Gandalf turns round to follow his team to the exit, but out of nowhere a fiery whip enters out of the darkness to grab the wizard’s leg. The Balrog wants to bring Gandalf with him. As we see Gandalf slip, he grabs on the edge, holding onto dear life. Looking over at his concerned friends he shouts to them “Fly you fools” and proceeds to let go, leading me into my favourite part of this scene…
Once Gandalf let’s go, the entire scene shifts from this epic masterpiece, to a very emotionally driven moment. Peter Jackson, the director, captures the devastation that has hit The Fellowship perfectly. The scene goes into a slow motion, which is how it feels for all of us when we are completely shocked. Frodo’s scream in despair as he sees a almost family-like member die, is drawn out and echoes through the scene, adding to this heart-wrenching moment. The incredible score by Howard Shore starts, which is extremely emotive all by itself. But the one thing which is a highlight for me within this scene, is Aragorn’s reaction. Viggo Mortensen’s acting here is breathtaking. Even though he doesn't say anything, the look of disbelief which he portrays is phenomenal. Aragorn is the leader of the Fellowship, they all look up to him, and in this moment you can tell he feels he has let his team down.
As the Fellowship enter the light of the outside and have reached safety, they all react in ways you would all imagine them to. Gimli tries to get back in and save someone he clearly knows has died, therefore, having to be held back, portraying this fiery Dwarf mentality. Legolas, being an elf, therefore in tune with everyone’s emotions, is stood there looking overwhelmed with what has just happened. All The Hobbits are in bits, as they are emotional creatures, leaving Boromir, the soldier who is used to death, consoling his friends as they mourn. As mentioned previously, Aragorn is the highlight of this scene, with this also being shown in how he is still acting the leader, telling everyone that they must keep moving else they will not be safe, due to Orcs coming out at nightfall, leaving them vulnerable. The complete shift in emotion from this character to what he was like in the cave to outside is perfect, providing us with incredible depth of character. We know he is devastated by what has happened, but it has not taking him away from the mission and the safety of everyone else. Aragorn's arc is all about him becoming a leader, a king, and this small snippet speaks bucket loads about his potential.
With the scene coming to a close, we see Aragorn looking around for Frodo, until he spots him walking away from the group. “FRODO” Aragorn shouts, trying to call him back. The camera pans to Frodo and zooms in on his head. Frodo turns around to look at Aragorn, with a tear running down his face, highlighting the fact Frodo wasn’t really sure what he was getting himself into, until now.
As mentioned before, the score was composed by Howard Shore, with the song played during this scene being “The Bridge of Khazad Dum”. The scene, though incredibly well directed, would not have the weight it has without this piece of music. It is perfectly emotional, and has been used in many other films and trailers since, such as The Man of Steel teaser trailer. It is an absolute masterpiece, and takes me back to this breathtaking scene every time I listen to it.
So there we have it, my review on one of the most memorable moments in cinema history. Gandalf is an iconic character, played by a superb actor in Ian McKellen. I feel most of the time deaths in films never give the characters the justice they deserve, but this certainly wasn't the case for Gandalf. I get emotional every time I watch this moment as it is nothing short of perfection.