Born Of Hope

Born Of Hope


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Those who can't get enough of The Lord Of The Rings will be pleased by the arrival of this new film which provides backstory to the original series. Though made entirely by fans on a non-profit basis, it features the same high level of craft that elevated The Hunt For Gollum, and it's no surprise to discover that some of the same people were involved. Their work has earned praise from staff at WETA who worked on Peter Jackson's films and you can now watch it online for free.

Unfortunately, unlike its cousin, Born Of Hope relies on YouTube formatting and the compression required for this means it doesn't come across at its best. However, despite this it manages to capture much of the atmosphere of the other films and to produce a consistent look. The use of established recreated Anglo-Saxon villages adds to its authenticity, even if everything does look just a little bit too clean during these scenes, and most of the action is shot in woodland which gives it a claustrophobic edge - one is never sure where enemies might be hiding.

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At the centre of this tale, which was based on two paragraphs written by Tolkein in his copious appendices, is Arathorn (Christopher Dane), heir of Isildur, a man striving to protect his people against the murderous orcs who skulk among the trees. These are the early days of Sauron's search for the one ring, and he also seeks revenge upon the Dunadan for his ancient injury. Even if you're not a fan and don't know what's coming next, there's an air of brooding menace that suffuses the film throughout.

Interwoven with this story is Arathorn's romance with a local girl, Gilraen (Beth Aynsley), whose softness and warmth make the attraction convincing even if she doesn't come across as very bright - though that, in turn, leads her to make more modest and more efficacious decisions than the ambitious men when the time finally comes for her to do so. Our hero has also inadvertently captured the heart of his warrior sidekick Elgarain (played by director Kate Madison), and the angst surrounding this situation - especially as she in turn is loved by another - is slightly overplayed, but there are still some genuinely affecting moments.

It's Dane himself who really carries the film, with an energetic, intense performance that really makes one feel for him, especially during combat - he convinces as someone who is genuinely exhausted and in pain but still fighting for all he's worth. All the business about royal blood so important to Tolkein's stories seems irrelevant when rooting for Arathorn as an ordinary guy determined to protect his family - including, in time, the small son who has a greater destiny ahead of him.

Though at times it's too heavy on sentiment (difficult to avoid with this sort of story), this is nevertheless a tough little film that genuinely grips in its own right. The special effects are top notch, the choreography well judged to make the best of limited assets. The orcs and the battles are suitably ugly, the style of the dialogue is consistent, and the story bears up well under the weight of the Tolkein legacy. With more focus on female characters, it also gives one the sense of looking at aspects of this world that were previously hidden. Anyone who enjoys fantasy will find it a treat.

Reviewed on: 23 Dec 2009
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A prequel to The Lord Of The Rings sees a Dunadan lord striving to defend his people against encroaching orcs.
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Director: Kate Madison

Writer: Alex K Aldridge, based on the work of JRR Tolkein.

Starring: Christopher Dane, Beth Aynsley, Kate Madison, Danny George, Iain Marshall, Andrew McDonald, Luke Johnston

Year: 2009

Runtime: 64 minutes

Country: UK


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