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‘Food is not only a collection of products that can be used for statistical or nutritional studies. It is also and at the same time, a system of communication, a body of images, a protocol of usages, situations and behaviours’. I agree with this statement made by Barthes as food scenes are one of the most important scenes in a film. Food can be one of the most revealing of character traits on screen. It can tell us a lot about the personality of the character.
When we watch prominent eating scenes, many questions come to mind. What is the character eating? Do they use utensils or do they just start eating with their hands straight away? When and where do these scenes occur? As a tool that is intrinsically linked to sustenance and nourishment, food is one of the most productive ways to convey character and plot development. They can say micro-narratives even for a split second and set up premises spontaneously, evocatively, and powerfully. Like at the start of “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, a company of dwarves visit Bilbo Baggins without him knowing the reason for their visit. In the scene, the way that Bilbo readies the food and prepares to eat shows that he is indeed highly respected by the hobbits of the Shire. He seems really well disciplined and proper. But his guests. On the other hand his guests eat in an extremely disorderly manner which makes them seem like savages for indeed they had lost their homes and lived as travellers for many years. The way they eat shows their yearning to reclaim their homeland and once again live the lavish life of kings that they once had. And that was what led Bilbo to join their adventure, a thing that seems small but was the most important event in the future of middle earth.
In J.R.R.Tolkien’s Middle-earth writings, food and eating are also very relevant, particularly in narrative parts involving Hobbits, which, of course, are all of The Hobbit and almost all of The Lord of the Rings. In The Lord of the Rings, the essential theology of eating remains. Eating is a popular act among Hobbits in particular, although it can also be seen among Elves, Men, Ents, and even sometimes Dwarves: food and food bind Hobbits with each other, with strangers they meet, and with the earth itself. Tolkien portrays the culture of the Hobbits’, especially their approach to eating, as a model of a healthy society.For even the most casual reader of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, it is obvious that food is vital to the Hobbits. We all know that if they can get it, the Hobbits enjoy six meals a day, including two dinners. As the Prologue to the Lord of the Rings points out, they ‘eat and drink, often and heartily.’ Yes, much of their time was consumed by growing food and eating it. But this also showed that the Hobbits were peace loving people who stayed away from the problems of the “bigger world”. They were far too occupied with enjoying their food and beer that they seldom cared about what was going on in the outside world. This makes the scene at the start of the hobbit even better as it shows that Bilbo went against the culture of the Hobbits and ventured into the outside world to help the dwarves reclaim their home.
According to Bower “Food is a part of semiotic process of film making”. ‘This complex signifying system, involves what is eaten, not eaten, thrown away, preserved, chopped, baked, shared, hoarded, cooked from scratch, taken from a can, or stolen’. I would disagree with this statement as food scenes are not only about eating but also about what the characters are eating, who are they eating with, how are the eating. It all tells us about the characters. As Norman Wirzba says “Eating is among the most intimate ways we know for joining our lives with others; other people, animals, plants, local habitats, and ecosystem processes. Eating is not simply a physical act’. Just like in the Hobbit, the way the dwarves ate showed us about their personality for example Thorin Okinshield, the leader of the company, ate in a more orderly manner which made him seem like a noble, which he was as the grandson of the previous king, Thror, and the heir to the throne of Durin.
In conclusion, food scenes are important, not only because of what the characters are eating, but also because of the way the characters eat and who they eat with shows us a lot about their personalities and the way they will behave when met with challenges.
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