Jun. 22nd, 2017

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I love the rhythm of the Star Wars movies; the balanced to and fro between high-adrenaline action sequences and quiet moments. And sometimes those quiet moments are the most powerful. After the intensity of the podrace and its giddy, gleeful aftermath, we switch to the gentle but crucial scene when Qui-Gon informs Anakin of his freedom. Anakin's departure from his home and mother on Tatooine is heartbreaking even within the immediate context of Episode I's storyline, and proves to be pivotal for the overarching tale of Anakin's fall to darkness. Every line carries its own poignancy, and I could easily quote the entire sequence. But this line might be the most important -- in the scene, perhaps in the entire film, maybe the whole prequel trilogy.

"But you can't stop the change, any more than you can stop the suns from setting."

This is the crux of Anakin's struggles, and the ultimate reason for his downfall. He can't bear for anything beloved to fall out of his control, out of his reach. Change, the only sure thing in life, is unthinkable to him. And in spite of his mother's wise and caring words, he will fight that change with all his might. Nowhere in the prequels does this concept play out more strikingly than in this scene:

Anakin is literally racing against the setting suns, driven to save his mother from her inevitable fate. And when he can't save her, he momentarily succumbs to his darkest urges. How painfully ironic that it is her death that leads to his first significant descent to the Dark Side; she, the woman who taught him far better than that. But he's been without her influence for ten years, and while the Jedi have tried to teach him to avoid unhealthy attachment, they are also responsible for his prolonged separation from her. It's just a mess in so many ways.

In any case, back to the original scene. Shmi's wisdom is particularly meaningful because she must endure an equally painful sacrifice in letting Anakin leave. You can see that her heart is breaking, but she knows his chances of leading a better life and reaching his potential are far greater if he can leave Tatooine. She doesn't let her attachment to him get in the way of his future. She conceals the depth of her own pain for Anakin's sake, and she stands alone as he walks away from her.

Honestly, I get so emotional at this point, it's almost a relief to switch to the adrenaline of Darth Maul's attack on Qui-Gon. There's that tonal rhythm again. It really works.

Next, my favorite Padmé and Anakin scene in Episode I...


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