Lord of the Rings
director of photography
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Commentaries on this disc:
Director E. Elias Merhige
Rating:4.5/10 (4 votes) [
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Reviewed by sirgawayn on January 4th, 2006
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What a pretentious windbag. Merhige spends the track describing the thematic significance of each scene, assigning great philosophical meaning to every little scene. He has four or five basic ideas that he repeats over and over, and some of them don't even make sense: if Eckhart is supposed to replace Kingsley, why won't he suffer the same anguish and insanity that Kingsley did? He also genuinely believes in "remote viewing," which makes him sound even more ridiculous. Except for a few comments about types of cameras used, Merhige says almost nothing about the actual filmmaking process. Too bad, since he has a strong visual sense if nothing else. The "Commentary Tracks of the Damned" article by the Onion A.V. Club did a good job ripping this commentary apart.
Reviewed by pat00139 on March 27th, 2007
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Mr. Merhige seems to be narrating the movie, reading the script, it seems. He also inject why he chose this or that camera placement or chose to shoot this or that way, but it's mostly narrating. To his credit, he does add information that's not overly obvious in the movie. He tries to add another dimension to the movie but only ends up being redundant, saying what the scenes tell you. (A thought for the wise: I don't think he uses the term 'Kafkaesque' properly in this commentary.) This is an easily forgettable track, as all he does is tell you what's going on. There's no real talk of the movie's making, only what's on screen, apart from a few little bits of information, like the optimal place for remote viewing. Case in point: you see Aaron. Eckhart's eye, then you see him going through Ben Kingsley's books. Mr. Merhige then tells you that the eye, the third eye, gets opened by Mr. Eckhart's pouring over these books. Even if you don't get this idea exactly watching the movie, you can pretty much figure out that M. Eckhart is getting more information, figuring out how Mr. Kingsley's mind works. I did get a bit more insight to the movie, but that's not because Mr. Merhige says something important, it's just that one of his comments led me to think about something, which in turn started a chain reaction in my head, ending in a bit of a clearer picture. To give you another idea of what this track is like, not only does Mr. Merhige mention 'Begotten' three times, he also recommends you watch it. It's not a track you'd want to listen to unless you're a fan of the movie.
Reviewed by grimjack on April 14th, 2021
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The other reviews pretty much nail it. He takes the fantasy elements of the film much too seriously for me to think he is not putting on an act for this commentary. That does not make it terrible, but even without, it still is not a good track. There are technical moments he highlights well, and breaks down backstories and behind the scenes notes that are interesting. But these are more readily found in the trivia section on IMDB than listening through the track.
He never really mentions the acting or actors, and I think hearing from or about Ben Kingsleys approach would have been great.
Better quotes than I could have come up with, as I researched this track to see if I was wrong in how I interpreted it...
Merhige talks about his movie as though he came up with a cure for cancer. I cannot recall another commentary in which a participant chats about his work in such hushed, portentous tones. And that is basically all that Merhige does: he mostly just describes what we see. Occasionally Mehige talks about thematic issues, camerawork, the movies visuals, and the reality of remote viewing. However, those moments appear infrequently, and the commentary usually comes across as a narrated version of the flick.
and (from Walter Chaw)
I am of two minds about Merhiges highbrow commentary in that on the one hand, it is not something I have ever heard before, yet on the other hand, it is a little ripe with self-importance. Levity is always welcome, truly, but failing that, Merhige approaches the track as an opportunity to deconstruct the themes of the film with an eye towards, ultimately, delivering an admonition that we all should embrace our shadows lest we are swallowed whole by them. If there is plenty of meat in here for detractors to chew on, there is plenty, too, for supporters to champion. Find me somewhere on what Merhige calls the liminal gate --swinging between agreeing a lot and being embarrassed that it has been put forward in such a heavy-handed fashion.
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