The Lord of The Rings Trilogy is undoubtedly known for its masterful musical scores. The ability for music to so naturally accompany a scene and evoke a specific mood is truly amazing. The Trilogy has left its mark in the world of cinematic music, earning three academy awards for scores composed by the great Howard Shore.
In this review, I have chosen to dissect a song in the third and final installment of the trilogy, Return of the King. Although the song is one of the few that was not actually composed by Howard Shore, I believe it is the most significant song in Return of the King, and one of the most emotional songs in the entire trilogy.
The song, “The Edge of Night” was composed and performed by actor Billy Boyd, who plays Pippin in Lord of the Rings. King Denethor feasts on food and wine in a lavish dining hall, and requests that Pippin, his temporary steward, sing him a song. As Pippin sings to the king, we flash back and forth between the boy singing and the king’s son, Faramir, who is riding into battle. Faramir is leading a convoy into what is sure to be a slaughter. He does this in attempt to appease his father, who resents him for the death of his brother.
The choice to let Billy Boyd (Pippin) sing this song appeals to both ethos and logos. Boyd is not only an actor, but also a successful musician. This song is given more credibility and has a more profound effect because of his status as a practicing musician. It was also an insightful move to have a true artist perform this song. It is such a quintessential scene in the movie, that the beauty in the song may have been sacrificed had it been attempted by an actor without such vocal skills.
The song in this scene is extremely emotional and appeals to pathos. To begin, Pippin is singing acapella, which is in general a more personal and emotional form of song. The raw emotion can be easily heard in his voice, and is logical in setting the tone of the movie. As Faramir and his army arrive closer to the orcs and to death, some instrumentation is introduced which creates an even darker, more somber mood.
The song is so peaceful and eloquent, yet it accompanies the assured slaughter of Pippin’s friends. As stated in Understanding Movies, “music can also provide ironic contrast. In many cases, the predominant mood of a scene can be neutralized or even reversed with contrasting music” (p216). While I do not feel that the music undercut the negative emotion of the scene, I do feel that it shifted said negative emotions from an aggressive, war-like mentality more toward sadness and hopelessness.
Although it is the king’s son who rides to war, it is Pippen who is unhappy about the coming fate of Faramir. While he is unable to dispute the king, he uses the song as an emotional outlet. This concept is addressed in Understanding Movies: “when actors are required to assume restrained or neutral expressions, music can suggest their internal, hidden, emotions” (p216). The music allows Pippin to reveal his emotions, as well as the overall emotion of the protagonists. Had this scene not included his song, it would have had a much less effective part in setting the mood of the movie.
The lyrics assume an equally if not more important roll as the other aspects of the song. A sort of hopelessness is an underlying theme throughout Return of the King. This song is essentially the peak of this realization that the good guys are losing. The lyrics essentially describe leaving home and being overtaken by darkness. The last line of the song “All shall fade” is especially important. While the results of the battle are not learned until later, the lyrics somewhat foreshadow the coming result of the battle and the fate of Middle Earth.
This song receives five out of five pickles for its successful use of all three appeals in the movie. The song effectively captures our attention and sets the mood for the remainder of the movie. It is truly a beautiful composition alone, but serves an even greater purpose within the movie.