On the Spell of Bottomless Dread

Discussion in 'General Topics' started by Ange1e4e5, Feb 15, 2019.

  1. Ange1e4e5

    Ange1e4e5 Well-Known Member

    In the session for February 15, it was suggested that some way of portraying the Spell of Bottomless Dread, the term for Morgoth and Sauron's control over others, should be created "onscreen". I have suggested monochromatic eyes, like the Imperius Curse, or depicting the possessed' faces with Sauron or Morgoth's eyes staring through their sockets like Voldemort possessing Harry in Order of the Phoenix.

    Monochromatic Eyes

    The Possessor staring through the Possessed' eyes
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2019
  2. amysrevenge

    amysrevenge Well-Known Member

    It's an interesting film-making dilemma. How to make it obvious to the audience without also making it obvious to the characters on-screen (I assume we don't want it to be immediately obvious to the other characters). Only having it (whatever "it" is) happen periodically would be a good start.
    Faelivrin likes this.
  3. Ange1e4e5

    Ange1e4e5 Well-Known Member

    Periodically sounds like a good idea, but the Execs definitely want something that can be portrayed onscreen. As a suggestion: to diverge into music, we could have a musical cue for the Spell of Bottomless Dread, similar to Maleficent hypnotizing Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. I gotta admit, this scene freaked me out when I was a kid.
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2019
    Faelivrin likes this.
  4. amysrevenge

    amysrevenge Well-Known Member

    That whole movie freaked me out as a kid. The dragon at the end? Forget about it...
  5. Ange1e4e5

    Ange1e4e5 Well-Known Member

    Do you think this could be a starting point?
  6. amysrevenge

    amysrevenge Well-Known Member

    A musical cue would be awesome. But you're right that Corey and crew wanted a visible effect too. I haven't thought of anything (other than that eyes thing) yet.
  7. Ange1e4e5

    Ange1e4e5 Well-Known Member

    Makeup? Gaunt features, eye-bags?
  8. Haakon

    Haakon Administrator Staff Member

    As amysrevenge says, it's tricky to find a visual effect that people around the spellbound person doesn't notice. Perhaps something happening in the eyes just for half a second. Like a monochromatic shift that passes over the eyes when nobody is looking. Or a quick spasm.
    The_Singing_Fox likes this.
  9. Zephen12

    Zephen12 Member

    Some other ideas...
    1. Brief moments in which a character would flinch/squint and put a hand to their head as if they have a headache, potentially accompanied with a sound (very short) musical theme? This can happen when other characters aren't looking.
    2. Tears? I like the imagery that tears would evoke memory of the torment, while simultaneously being an indication that the character's will is against the actions they are taking (even if they do not have memory of their actions later, they may be aware in the moment and shed tears over the fact).
    3. Unblinking? We could simply never have those characters blink. Other elves may catch onto that, but it could be considered a side-effect of their torment. Alternatively, if another elf comments on it, perhaps they can blink by an act of will instead of as a reflex and "pretend" to blink.
    4. Classic "reflection is different than actual appearance" trope? Any time a character looks into water, shined metal, or a mirror their appearance can contrast what they actually look like to the other characters.
    5. A nervous tick? While still in Angband, the characters who fall under Morgoth's dominion can develop the same behavior pattern (hard squint/blink, lick lips, itch, mouth twitch, etc.) which would seem to be no more than a side-effect of their torment to their fellow elves once they return home.
    Faelivrin likes this.
  10. MithLuin

    MithLuin Well-Known Member

    Another issue that we need to show is the effect on Morgoth of exerting his own strength to conquer the will of others. It shouldn't take much out of him to crush one individual elf, but as he does this again and again.....

    This ties into the idea of Morgoth expending his own strength to influence the earth.

    Probably this will matter when he makes dragons?
  11. Ange1e4e5

    Ange1e4e5 Well-Known Member

    I’ve suggested he does that with the creation of Glaurung in particular, since no other Dragon has the mental abilities that Glaurung displays.
  12. MithLuin

    MithLuin Well-Known Member

    I've been trying to think about how you show mind control without having a visual cue that it is happening.

    The obvious answer is that someone suddenly changes their behavior and acts weirdly.

    'These are not the droids you are looking for.'

    Here, you can't even see the stormtrooper's face, so there's no clues in facial expression and no special effects to show he's been affected. Instead, the clues are all in Obi-wan's behavior - the hand motion, the careful, expectant tone of voice. And of course the fact that the person who stopped and questioned them simply repeats what he's been fed. Of course, you get an explanation after the fact in case there was any confusion as to what just happened.

    The vampire Alucard checks into a hotel:

    ...and checks out.

    In both scenes, they show him using some sort of mind-whammy on a person by showing that person's eyes turn red. But more significantly, the person becomes deliriously happy for no reason, eager to please, smiling, etc. It's rather obvious that the people affected are not acting rationally or making their own choices here.

    In the case of the Spell of Bottomless Dread, we're not going to show the victims being happy or smiling - they should be terrified. So, the compulsion is much more of a push than a pull. They're being forced and can't resist, but not happy about it. It should come across more as possession, probably. But...we don't want to give the impression that Morgoth himself is present. It's more a....puppets on strings situation. He can pull the strings when he wants to. Showing someone completely ignoring/tuning out someone they care about and turning away, totally focused on the task Morgoth is telling them to do....that sort of thing. We might want to have the victims hear voices, I dunno.
    The_Singing_Fox likes this.
  13. Felingil

    Felingil New Member

    I think one should be a bit mindful using eye effects in this case. While it is a great way to show the Spell, because of the "eyes are the window to the soul" concept, it has been used so much that it's almost a cliché. We all recognise the classic scene where a character makes eye contact with the camera and there is a sudden flash of change in eye colour.

    A visual effect can be can probably be used, but I think it might work best when used in support of some other cue. Relying to heavy on a visual effect might cheapen the power of Morgoth's spell rather than reinforcing it.

    I'm however wondering if it's possible to do something based on what MithLuin notes; the victims should terrified. Maybe a less obvious postproduction effect one might try is to isolate a scared expression in the eyes and superimpose that on an otherwise normal expression. It would be kind of like a fake smile, in that the characters would behave normally but the viewer can sense that they are not exactly sincere.
  14. Faelivrin

    Faelivrin Well-Known Member

    I've been a bit bothered by the idea that Edhellos is going to come back from Angband obviously insane. The most harmful thing about the Spell isn't so much that it controls people, but that it's insidious. The Elves can't tell who is or isn't dominated, so they resort to exiling all escaped captives, and become suspicious of those who they once had welcomed back. That suspicion, paranoia, and rejection rests on not being able to predict who will betray your city next. So I think it's important that the other victims of the Spell look and act... not normal, necessarily, but "only" traumatized in much the same ways as genuine escaped prisoners.

    And conversely, some extremely traumatized captives who genuinely escape with their free will intact could be crazy and raving.

    I really like these suggestions, other than the unblinking eyes. I imagine Edhellos doing whatever she does -- physically unbarring a gate, perhaps -- while nobody is looking. Her motions are somewhat jerky, interrupted by spasms or pauses as though she's trying to stop her hands from moving. There are tears and terror and guilt and self-loathing in her eyes. Corey suggested we should imply a parallel with the Ring's compulsion upon people, so maybe a look of desperation, where the viewer isn't certain whether the character is desperate for something, or to stop something.

    When straying only to return to Morgoth (to be captured again and racked for more military intel), something like sleepwalking, or wandering in the wilderness not realizing where they're going.

    I think the key is for these facial expressions, ticks, flinching, ect. to happen primarily when other characters aren't looking.
    Haakon likes this.
  15. amysrevenge

    amysrevenge Well-Known Member

    I suppose strictly on the mechanics of the SoBD, the two main alternatives are: 1) the victim is fooled into thinking they are either doing good by their actions, or are performing some other action than what they are actually doing, and so whatever it is they are going along with it or 2) the victim is compelled into physical action against their will, and whatever it is they are doing they are actively resisting. It would take a different means to show either one. It's not even immediately obvious to me which would be more horrifying...
  16. Faelivrin

    Faelivrin Well-Known Member


    The Ring dominates people by controlling their desires, manipulating them with an overwhelming psychological need to do something, or hammering on them to break their will.

    Glaurung manipulated Nienor by erasing her memory, which could be viewed as severely manipulating her perceptions of reality. Closer to your thoughts I suspect, Morgoth skews Hurin's perceptions of reality while he's captive, and because of his delusions Hurin does Morgoth's will when released.

    The "Spell" (not so named) is described thus in the Grey Annals: "Some indeed he so daunted by the terror of his eyes that they needed no chains more, but walked ever in fear of him, doing his will wherever they might be." In the Quenta "their wills were chained to his, and strayed only to come back to him again." To me these descriptions seem more like the domination of the Ring, than the manipulation of Hurin. It's almost as though they fear punishment if they don't obey, and maybe even receive telepathic orders? But possibly Glaurung's power is derived directly from Morgoth's (rather than his own power as a former-Maia) and there could be some captive Elves more similar to Hurin if we want, and have time to show it.

    I also wonder if we should show the person acting apparently normally, and then reacting after the treacherous action with guilt, shame, weeping, temporary self-isolation, or even self-harm.
    Last edited: Mar 9, 2019
    Halstein likes this.
  17. amysrevenge

    amysrevenge Well-Known Member

    Yes, I think my either/or above might be a bit too simplistic, now that I've considered it longer. There's a lot of space in the middle, where someone knows they are doing something bad, but do it anyway, without being a jerky physical puppet.
    Halstein likes this.
  18. Haakon

    Haakon Administrator Staff Member

    I’m trying to look at this in a way that’s as realistic as possible. Even if it’s not where we end up, I think it could add something to the discussion.
    I imagine someone who have experienced the terrible gaze of Morgoth will want to avoid it happening again, while the memory of the thing haunts her at all times. That’s got nothing to do with spells, it’s just how people tend to deal with scary stuff. So, let’s look at this experience - these terrifying eyes - as a potential punishment. It means these people will do things to avoid being punished; they’ll do whatever it takes to stay unpunished. So Edhellos would feel that experiencing Morgoth’s gaze again would be worse than the psychological trauma of betrayal. Fine, so far so good.
    But then - how does she know exactly what to do? How did Morgoth instruct her to open the gates (or whatever it is she’ll do)? How many instructions has he given? Or does he give her instructions continuously, somehow?
    No, something is missing from this line of reasoning. I think it’s the power of domination that you’ve been talking about. Edhellos has to feel that she’s owned by Morgoth, that she belongs to him. She’s broken.

    That means she can’t be fighting it.

    So, presumably, she’s back among the Noldor but knowing that she’s really one of Morgoth’s slaves. As long as she just deals with ordinary stuff, there’s no problem. But as soon as there’s an opportunity to betray her people to her lord Morgoth, she will. And I think she won’t fight it. I think she will just be very, very sad. She will do it crying.
  19. Haakon

    Haakon Administrator Staff Member

    The reasoning above leaves out how a victim acts between her ‘breakthroughs of slavery’. How we should show that is of course the main problem so I guess I missed the most important part...

    Peter J showed flashing images of the Eye to make us understand that the Ring was evil (or whatever). That was imho a bad way to show evil influence. But I guess that, as a last resort, we could show Edhellos envisioning Morgoth’s terrible eyes.
    We’ve discussed doing something with the eyes, and people (me too) have suggested spasms. But the eye thing feels like a cliche to be honest, and the spasms would indicate a struggle, which I’m arguing against.
    One way would be to give the Spell of BD a specific musical theme, and play it at times while showing Edhellos. Alternatively, a sound effect that’s connected to the Spell of BD. That could work.
    But as Zephen suggests above, she could also cry at times. But then she has to actively hide it, and we should show her hiding it. She is broken, and Morgoth owns her. She knows that crying too much will make people ask questions.
  20. MithLuin

    MithLuin Well-Known Member

    I understand the limitations of 'stark raving mad', and also the struggle of showing the audience what is going on. If it's all in her head and there's no visual cues or voices at all....hard to make our intended meaning clear. So...maybe she is only raving when they find her. Not making sense, obviously terrified, etc. But then...after they bring her back, she quiets down. Almost completely. Barely talks, hardly does much of anything. She is quiet and still...but still frightened. So, not a lunatic, but more like a frightened animal. I am not sure how we would show Morgoth 'nudging' her into action, but I agree with the suggestions of tears during her actions of treachery and a look of fear or pain on her face. And of course the musical cue would be important.

    That way, any escaped captive who looks a bit worse for wear and seems scared would be difficult to distinguish from Morgoth's sleeper agents. Suspicion would be natural, though tragic.
    Faelivrin likes this.

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