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MFF Random Data: Who Does More On-Screen Walking? Jesse and Céline from the “Before” Trilogy, or Frodo and Sam From the “Lord of the Rings” Trilogy

February 22, 2021

I’ve always wanted to know if famous cinematic strollers Jesse and Céline From the Before Trilogy (Before Sunrise, Before Sunset, Before Midnight) covered more on-screen distance than Sam and Frodo, the main protagonist walkers from the Lord of the Rings trilogy (Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King). To do this, I tasked myself with the most excellent job of watching the trilogies again, and timing the amount of time they walked or ran, then figured out how much screen time they have, so I could get a percentage of time spent walking.

It was a very enjoyable quest, that led to some life-changing discoveries (not really…but sort of). In the end, I was able to figure out which duo covered more on-screen distance, and which duo spent a larger percentage of their screen time walking. 

If you haven’t watched these trilogies, here’s a brief synopsis for each.

The Before Trilogy – The Richard Linklater directed trilogy centers around two people doing a lot of walking and talking

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy – The Peter Jackson directed trilogy centers around two brave friends walking a very long distance, so they can toss an evil ring into some lava. 

Rules and Data Collection

  1. I watched each film and recorded the time each duo spent walking or running. I only counted the steps they take when they are on-screen. We all know Sam and Frodo covered more distance overall, but, since we don’t see 99% of those steps, I didn’t count them.
  2. I figured out the amount of time spent walking in each film by using a stopwatch. Every time the characters started walking I timed it. I tried to be as exact as possible. It was wonderful, but not 100% accurate. 
  3. I also recorded the amount of screen time that each character has. Why? Jesse and Céline are the main characters (and pretty much only characters) in the Before Trilogy, and they’re on-screen for almost every second of the trilogy. Whereas, Sam and Frodo are part of a large ensemble piece, and their storyline is intertwined with about 40 other characters. 
  4. I based my math off of a 20-minute mile (1.6 kilometer). I feel safe with the 20-minute mile estimate. Why? Sam and Frodo spend a decent amount of time running AND grudging slowly. So, it evens out. Also, the Before duo mostly saunters during their walks. After doing some research, I learned that a 20-minute mile is the norm, so, I feel safe with the estimate. 
  5. I did not watch the Extended editions of the LoTR trilogy.

Jesse and Céline Stats

  • Before Sunrise – 17:30 minutes of walking
  • Before Sunset – 23:01 minutes of walking 
  • Before Midnight – 20:05 minutes of walking 
  • Overall time spent Walking – 60:36 minutes
  • Amount of screen time in the trilogy – 261 minutes 
  • Percentage of Screen time spent walking – 23.1% – This might seem like a low number, but remember the amount of scenes taking place on or near trains, cars, bars, benches, boats, restaurants, cafes, houses and hotels
  • Estimated Distance Traveled – 3.05 miles covered
  • Numbers of times they walked for over 20 seconds with no stopping – 27
  • Most epic walk? – The epic 12+ minute walk in Before Midnight is a marvel of actors remembering their dialogue, and the steadicam operator not falling on their face. 

Sam and Frodo Stats

Conclusion 

Since Céline and Jesse are the main characters of the Before trilogy, I assumed that they would cover more distance – and they did. Their epic walks saw them cover an estimated 3.05 miles. The most surprising aspect of the data is that they only spent 23.1% of their screen time walking. But, after watching the trilogy again, I remembered the train, car, boat, restaurant and bars scenes that had them staying stationary for long periods of time. 

After watching Clerks 2, you’d think Sam and Frodo were in perpetual motion as they walked nonstop towards Mount Doom. However, the majority of their scenes see them slowly climbing, standing around, or laid in bed (or in a spider web).

In the end, Jesse and Celine covered more distance, and spent more of their screen time walking.

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