“Please look here. That was the post office. You might remember the thatched roof“.
No, I don´t, I am too busy trying to stay awake. One Hobbit Hole after the other – no matter how much effort the guide puts into the tour, it´s just a – detailed – listing of boring scenes from “Lord of the Rings”.
The story, how the little sheep farm became Hobbiton, is actually pretty exciting. Peter Jackson, a genius in his own league , took one look at the spot, and knew this was the place to be.
Rolling (what else) hills, a lake and a pine – the “party tree”. In March 1999 the army marched up, complete with bulldozers, graders and rolllers and changed the former ordinary place into the Hobbit village, Tolkien once dreamt.
It was also the perfect spot to be kept secret. Not visible from the road, electricity pylons or phone wires – the scourges for secretive filmmakers in the 21st century – were not even known.
The set was constructed in nine months – complete with gardens to imitate the english countryside and dear rounded doors in the hills. Most of it was taken down and removed after the three sequences of the Lord of the Rings were successfully shot.
But at this time, the overwhelming success of the movies took its toll. Bus loads of enchanted moviegoers wanted to see Hobbiton and the owners of the sheep farm started to show people around.
The enthusiasm borders on insanity, as a look at the car park might prove. It is stuffed to the last spot with cars and coaches.
Not only from the nearby Matamata people have arrived, not only from Rotoura – an hour away – but even from the three-hours-drive Auckland. They will have to head back straight after the viewing.
What a miserable way to spend the day.
The sheer number of people is the first part of the problem. Between 400 and 600 happy fans arrive every day – up to 2,000 during the season.
As every tour lasts only half an hour , the – often huge – groups of people are rushed through . No room for enchantment to unfold.
To shoot the Hobbit movies, the scenery was rebuilt, made to last. Four gardeners are working to keep the setting as pittoresque as possible.
But – apart from the pub “Green Dragon” (the name being obviously the stroke of a genius) – you can´t enter a single building. The tour leaves room only for quick pictures.
The second part of the problem is that the scenes filmed in the village are not really breathtaking. The scenes lay the foundation for the movie – and that´s about it.
Don´t get me wrong, the movies were really fun. I definitely would enjoy to visit a spot where a really exciting scene took place.
But the house of Sam and Rosie (oh, so her name was Rosie) from the slightly underwhelming end? The field where the firework was displayed?
Well, glad I didn´t miss THAT one.
The third problem however goes deeper. It´s just not possible to relive in a movie location the feeling, one experienced while watching the movie.
It´s not called “the magic of the movies” for nothing. In broad daylight most places are a let-down.
Being told, which scene took place where only makes matters worse. “Oh stunning” you whisper, thinking “no, that can´t be.”
If you aren´t a Hobbit-fan body and soul, reading “News from Mittelerde” and believing “one ring to rule them all” is part of the wedding vow, you will not likely enjoy any moment on this tour. Aside from that it is way too expensive.
Just get some popcorn and a softdrink and enjoy the movie in private.