rough planned breakdown
with quotes & commentary
(highlight for hidden text)
Main Title — first in Quenya, then in English, letters as if chiseled into a black stone or metal surface, illuminated by reflected firelight, fade to black.
Score - single low base note, probably horns, or maybe organ pipe, slight vibrato, very sotto, with a light ringing of cymbal continuous through it, fading away
|0. The Downfallen
Scene opens to dark sculptured image in low relief, highlights in flickering red: a stylized, heavy wave design. Hold 5, pull out to show part of a larger bas-relief panel, tip upwards and slide back catching black metal glints
Score very strong, somber, robust, orchestral with brass & woodwinds over rumbling timpani like thunder, similar to Moldau or Siegfried's Funeral Music in theme
|1. Closeup of gate relief
(style a kind of Mesopotamian-Medieval-Art Nouveau...c'mon, you know--!)
revealing perspective of massive arch above, leaves of gate some 60' high, pull out to show huge plinth bulwarks, similar to Orthanc in feel, tip back to show height of wall, scan up to
score swelling and amplifying in terms of higher notes, broader fuller orchestration coming in, make sure it doesn't sound like 2001 here, though, use Dorian mode maybe or other to make it slightly alien, at least feel should be more more like Prokofiev or Respighi than Holst here.
|2. Wrought of steel and
(looking like many ancient gates with sculpted friezes on their panels)
higher levels looming behind, pale against the outer curtain's black obsidian-look, up above (not clear that flames' light is also inside city, not just out) to the Keel and the White Tower, agog—
score reaches soaring crescendo--
|3. The archway that no enemy
ever yet has passed...
(yes, those are little tiny people up on the ramparts, it's that big)
CRASH! the screen is momentarily blotted out as the immediate view is filled with a black missile covering nearly all the uplooking radius — the head of the battering ram has closed the distance and impacts the gate, leaving the sculptured relief badly damaged as it recoils, but still standing proud—
score - wardrums, heavy percussion here, also very discordant; if only "silent" (no sound FX), use massive percussion to indicate Grond striking
|4. With a vast rush Grond
was hurled forward—
we follow it back in its swing, lingering on the wolfs' head of Grond, through the towers of the 100-foot ram, over the ram crew hauling it back from zenith, then see the Black Captain overseeing the deed.
(There really were such 100-foot battering rams
mounted in towering frames in the ancient world, used unsuccessfully in
the attack on Rhodes, frex — but I haven't found any authentic pictures
of the work of Diades et al yet, so my guess is that it would look something
like a suspension bridge made of siege towers, with the ram hung from the
middle set. Grond's head is based partly on Gaulish tarasques.)
score still discordant percussion, Nazgűl theme enters over it — very sinister, desolate music first heard back in Fellowship, despairing and yet ironic, the ultimate cynic's theme, Weil-like only more ethereal
|5. ...it was against the
Gate that he would throw his heaviest weight...
(the head of an "aries" is never hollow, btw - it would crush like a rotten tooth. No matter how "cool" it would look.)
...it was the key, the weakest point in all that high and impenetrable wall.
|0:36 - 0:40
he raises his hand towards the Gates and points his sword at it, giving his magical command. The Ram is winched back to apex.
In the background siege towers are burning, arrows are flying back and forth between other siege towers and the knights and regulars defending the ramparts, on the ground catapults are launching flaming missiles in arcs over the walls.
(The Ram Unit looks like something by the design
team of DaVinci & Bosch, demented engineering design from the ancient
world, oak and iron hewn and forged, but with all the cogs and gears and
winches and treadmills of archaic machinery rolled into one monster construct.)
score still percussive, becomes more "driving" and suspenseful, a la Ronin or the Trench Scene in Star Wars
|6. He held up a long pale
sword...and cried aloud in a dreadful voice, speaking forgotten words to
rend both heart and stone...
Siege towers crashed or blazed suddenly like torches--
camera follows one shot towards, up, and over the walls, stopping on the top of the rampart to focus on the dead and wounded there. Lots. Movement draws the eye to a dying soldier cradling another man, either dead or nearly so, in the shelter of the parapet, smoothing the other's hair with a bloody hand. There is another CRASH — he winces at the impact, jamming himself back against the stones, his eyes closed.
score takes a "breath" after the second impact, and then resumes very softly, strings, elegiac, Samuel Barberesque, that contrast of mournful grace with bloody chaos done effectively in Platoon and Glory and Thin Red Line
|7. Indeed there were too
few now left there to do them great damage...
...the valour of the City was already beaten down...
More movement — one of the few resolute defenders a little further down is firing from a long, heavy bow, ignoring the chaos around him as he methodically shoots down into the fray — an arrow from one of the unburnt towers takes him in the face and pitches him back unceremoniously onto the rampart—
score continues to well in somber elegy, broadening into still-richer chords
|8. But about the Gate resistance
was still stout, and there the knights of Dol Amroth and the hardiest of
the garrison stood at bay.
Shot and dart fell thick ... on either side the ground was choked with wreck and the bodies of the slain--
track along his outflung arm to the overlook — the square before the gates is filled with dead and rubble, beyond is all flames and damaged buildings as far as the eye can see, and the wall of the second Circle rises through them, smoke stained, with more flames leaping behind it—
score reaches sub-crescendo with cymbal flare drawn out to highlight the wreck and ruin of Minas Tirith now revealed in full
|9. "The first circle of
the City is burning..."
(Yes, that's the edge of the Keel only - Minas Tirith is NOT dinky, dammit!)
|1:11 - 1:20
track up to the darkened city, ring after ring around the Keel glowing in the emberlight of the flames, pause and pull in to a building high in the sixth circle — through an arched window a glimpse of the Healers and their staff using Romanesque implements to remove a quarrel from a casualty, more wounded all over the floors and tables—
score resumes arcing, more tension and suspense, less elegiac now, drums pulsing under the orchestra
|10. the sixth Circle and
...now they were prepared for the tending of men hurt in battle or dying.
|1:21 - 1:30
Keep going up towards the pinnacle of the Keel, hovering over the the Citadel, move towards another window where a man with aquiline profile and bowed head sits beside another's sickbed...
(Art buffs will instantly recognize what I am
stealing Denethor's pose from, and why.)
score ramps slowly up again, growing in volume and breadth, but more suspense, more diminished chords and minor notes as it moves into tragic version of the Stewards' Theme
|11. The Tower of Ecthelion
...by him his father sat, and said nothing, but watched...
|1:31 - 1:35
Segue through doorways to the Courtyard within the Citadel and the dead tree by the fountain, the lurid light reflecting from the smoke clouds above making the water droplets look like rubies, or blood
score - flute solo over quiet orchestra of Stewards' Theme melody
|12. The Withered Tree.
|1:35 - 1:40
Close-up of the Guards in black and silver, tears running down the face of one (Beregond) as he leans his forehead against the haft of his spear
score moves into long, sustained, hollow, "organum" style chords
|13. yet another weapon,
swifter than hunger, the Lord of the Dark Tower had: dread and despair.
|1:41 - 1:50
SCREECH of a Nazgűl makes both Guards cringe against their posts, dropping spears and cowering as a batlike shadow sweeps overhead—
score a discordant blare of brass to indicate (or accompany) the Nazgűl-shriek, back to the earlier hurrying rhythm of the battle for the gates, only more urgent
|14. ...more unbearable they
became, not less, at each new cry...
|1:51 - 2:00
camera tracks the Ringwraith out over the circles of the City to the curtain wall, revealing not only the devastation inside, but now the breadth of the siege outside it from above, the towers, the fire-trenches, the hills of the dead, and Grond.
score grows more ferocious in tempo and discord, building
|15. Ever they circled above
the City, like vultures that expect their fill of doomed men's flesh...
|2:01 - 2:05
From up and within the wall we see the chains and tackle of Grond's towers swinging and rattling as the tension is released and the Ram leaps forward for the last time — a terrible white FLASH like lightning outside, silhouetting the towers of the gate and shining through like burning phosphorus between its leaves
to one final percussive deafening CRASH. Silence. (Actually, probably a very, very low note, almost inaudible, as used in Thin Red Line to create unity and disquiet)
|16. And suddenly upon the
last stroke the Gate of Gondor broke as if stricken by some blasting spell.
There was a flash of searing lighting--
|2:06 - 2:10
As the glare fades we see that Grond's grinning maw bestrides the threshold, the gates are broken wide open. Red flames shining through the gate from outside — pull through to the Black Captain waiting outside.
score - continued rests
|17. --the doors tumbled
in riven fragments to the ground...
A great black shape against the fires beyond... grown to a vast menace of despair...
|2:11 - 2:20
The Lord of the Nazgűl begins his triumphal entry into the City, over the mounds of the slain, while his own forces fall on their faces before his dark aura of power as he passes them by. Shots from various angles as he draws near, ending with through the arch from the inside.
("passage" style floating trot for the steed, to increase the eeriness of it)
(In the background and through it, the rammers
slowly winch up and dog the warhead of the Grond assembly out of the way,
and műmakil start trundling it back from the gates to allow passage
for the army)
score - muffled drum begins to beat, over basso profundo chords
|18. In rode the Lord of
The Witch-King rides through the arch of the gates, if sound FX, then hollow clopping of hooves briefly marks passing from softness of dead to the sheltered stone causeway and then stops as he comes through to the other side and the heaps of dead defenders fallen from the parapets above.
score — Nazgűl theme returns, very loud and rising in power, the harsh blatting brasses of Melkor's Song — evoke some of the most cacophonic passages in Puccini here as well as Weil (Weil for theme, Puccini for orchestration)
|2:31 - 2:40
track left across to the open square, before the point of the Keel, where Shadowfax and the White Rider await the enemy.
(Pull back a little farther, and reveal a small
Guard hunkered up against a corner wall, looking around fearfully from
behind its lee)
Score increasingly strident until we see Gandalf, the crescendo holds in a single sustained chord and then through it, rising, the Destiny theme begins to take shape—
|20. Shadowfax who alone
among the free horses of the earth endured the terror--
....he shrank back, cowering into a shadow....
|2:41 - 2:50
Gandalf defiantly commands the Witch-King to depart.
score — the Destiny theme slowed down/spread out into chordal progression as backdrop for the confrontation
|21. "Go back!"
|2:51 - 3:00
Angmar laughs in derision and unveils himself, brandishing his sword for combat...
(note, this exchange takes less than a minute
to read/pace out, if this were played in full — would add circa 1 minute
to the necessary screen-time.)
score -- dissonant, suspenseful brass flare
|22. "Old fool! --Die now
and curse in vain!"
...then looks over his shoulder in sudden dismay as he senses the artificial night of Sauron's creation starting to dissipate and the approach of relief forces who were supposed to be blocked from coming—
score - if no sound FX then trumpet solo (w/mute for shrillness) to indicate the "bird of dawn" — then rest for three beats, then the plurality of horncalls, very many, overlapping, in different pitches - gemshorns? Should be distinct from brass of orchestra.
|23. Cock-crow ...
...answered by the Horns of the North, wildly blowing--
|3:11 - 3:20
The éoreds of the Mark coming up over the Pelennor out of the smoke like a white-and-green wave of horses and steel—
score a swelling mixolydian chord, full orchestration, rising to break into the Rohan theme
|3:21 - 3:25
long aerial shot of the Rohirrim's ranks pouring over the battlefield.
score — trumpet solo over the orchestral theme; if no sound FX, driving percussion (lower registers — tymps?) to indicate hoofbeats
|25. The Lord of the Mark
and six thousand spears--
|3:26 - 3:40
we see as they flash past not only Théoden and his banner-bearer but also Éomer with his crest flying and a certain Dernhelm with couched spear and passenger...
pan up to show the Sun (in her guise as Vása,
the Consuming Fire) burning out through the clouds, over the mountains
score — the Destiny theme returns, interwoven with the Rohan theme (contrast of strings and/or woodwinds with brass)
|26 the front of the
first éored roared
like a breaker foaming to the shore...
|3:41 - 3:50
Cut to Théoden, far out in front, the gold of his shield reflecting the morning as the darkness breaks up, focus in to the burning interlace of Théoden's shield-boss sun-design.
Fade to bright. Credits appear as if carved in
marble of Minas Tirith.
score for this segment closes on major but augmented (unresolved) version of opening chord
|27. Like a god of old...his
golden shield shone like like an image of the Sun...
|Obviously, there is considerable time compression
going on here — but not as much as it seems like. Narrative is linear,
and Reality simultaneous; Story must be told in threads, to be intelligible.
Drama, particularly film, allows for more intercutting with immediate intelligibility
— if done correctly. This is an attempt to do so. In real life,
this sequence from the first strike to the fourth would I guess take close
to two hours — I'm not sure how long it would take/took to haul back a
hundred-foot iron ram, so I'm allowing the circa-half-hour it takes to
load a giant mangonel for each swing, (it would be a tremendous outlay
of energy to bring it to maximum potential, even allowing for some superior
Immortal engineering involved); followed by perhaps fifteen minutes to
half an hour for the enemy commander to ride across the uncertain footing
of the battlefield from his command post out of range of shot from the
walls. Cutting it down to four minutes is severe, but allowable in the
stylized language of film.
If this were to be done as part of a full-length feature, it would be expanded to include a) dialogue, b) the sequences between Pippin and the others in the Citadel, including the remove to Rath Dinen, c) the view of the Gates breaking from the Rohirrim POV as told in the book, d) possibly a little more battle. Maybe 15 minutes would be needed, I think, assuming all had been properly led up to in the preceding parts of the film. As a Fantasia-like "short" in its conception, I hope this manages to convey not only the outline of events, and nature of principal characters, but especially the horror and pathos of the position of the defenders, the hopelessness of their situation without destroying their intelligence and heroism, and the echo of an Eternal Theme that Tolkien echoes back to us from the walls of windy Troy...the Fall of the City. Oh, and we got an ObRef to Númenor in there, too — which actually works and is meaningful in context.
—And a reference — made visible on film — to the beginning of the quest, too: remember Gandalf's "enhancement" of Elrond's defenses with wave-horses? The last time the Lord of the Nazgűl tangled with Our Heroes? This is an example of architectonic structure, and it works pretty much the same in any medium, as both Aristotle and Tolkien have pointed out.