Tolkien

The Odeon cinema in Sheffield City Centre has had a revamp, so that it now has comfortable reclining seats and lots of leg room. Well yes, but the “less seats and extra space” (fewer, dammit) clearly weren’t tested on actual fat people. Because, although the posh new seats look – and are – wider than the previous seats, the extra width is negated by the ridiculous tables that have been added. Somewhere to put the drinks and snacks they want to sell you, yes, but somewhere that you can’t revolve out of the way of the seat while you sit down in it? No – it’s like sitting in a very tight booth in a restaurant. It might look cosy but it actually digs into your belly and reduces the space you have to sit down.

Oh, and the controls that move the footrest up and down are squished into the side rest underneath the table, so that every time you move, your hip pings against the controls and your feet go up or down…

However.

We were there to see a subtitled performance of Tolkien. We began with adverts and bad sound… and no subtitles. But they were only adverts, right, and if the advertisers can’t be arsed to subtitle, well, I can’t be arsed to buy what they’re selling.

Then we had trailers. Trailers “carefully selected for this performance”.

OK… the first one was for an Andre Rieu live streamed concert. It didn’t have subtitles. Nor did the other three, for Yesterday or for Rocketman (the other was for Downton Abbey and didn’t have dialogue so we’ll let that one off). Dear Odeon, if you “carefully selected” three musicals, without subtitles, for a deaf and hard of hearing audience, you’re probably doing it wrong.

The movie itself, I have to report, had excellent sound quality and I could probably have made sense of it without subtitles, but the subtitles were a lovely experience; clear, timely and, as far as I could tell, accurate (and, thank all the gods, actually synchronised with the performance rather than lagging behind like the Two Ronnies’ “answering the question before last” sketch as they often are on tv.)

I query the “cellar door” conversation which, for me, would have benefited from the first usage being spelled “Celador” or “Sellador” in the subtitles so that you understood Tolkien was talking about the sound rather than a literal door but that was perhaps angels on a pinhead. Otherwise, this was my first subtitled movie (I use subtitles on the tv all the time) and I predict it won’t be my last.

The film itself? I have to say it wasn’t helped by my being in the middle of re-reading Testament of Youth at the moment.  Both have a quartet of doomed public schoolboys wasting their youth and losing their lives in the chaos and mud of the trenches of first World War France. Tolkien’s “fellowship” and the fantastic elements of the film – flamethrowers to dragons, smoke to demons – stand up neither to the realistic nor the fantastic. I found my mind wandering: did WWI troops really use flamethrowers into enemy trenches (how did they get them across no man’s land? Why didn’t the people in the trenches just shoot the operators?) Were the pools of water in no man’s land really the lurid red of blood? (Weren’t they less heroically brown with filth?) And did Tolkien himself really have a batman called Sam Hodges/Gamgee?

If the whole of his life was shaped by his love for his wife/elven queen, why were the women in his work so…

Actually, the trouble with this film was that it made me want a really good biography of Tolkien and a re-read of Lord of the Rings instead.

 

 

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