September 8, 2010

Painful Moments in Movie History #2: The Fireplace Scene

Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen

Director
George Lucas
Writers
George Lucas, Jonathan Hales
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INTERIOR: NABOO LAKE RETREAT, LODGE, FIREPLACE ALCOVE - TWILIGHT

A fire blazes in the open hearth. PADMÉ and ANAKIN are sitting in front of it, gazing into the flames.

ANAKIN:
From the moment I met you, all those years ago, not a day has gone by when I haven't thought of you. And now that I'm with you again, I'm in agony. The closer I get to you, the worse it gets. The thought of not being with you- I can't breathe. I'm haunted by the kiss that you should never have given me. My heart is beating, hoping that kiss will not become a scar. You are in my very soul, tormenting me. What can I do? I will do anything that you ask...

Silence. The logs flame in the hearth. PADMÉ meets his eye, then looks away.

ANAKIN:
If you are suffering as much as I am, please, tell me.

PADMÉ:
...I can't. We can't. It's just not possible.

ANAKIN:
Anything is possible, Padmé, listen to me...

PADMÉ:
No, you listen! We live in a real world. Come back to it. You're studying to become a Jedi. I'm - I'm a Senator. If you follow your thoughts through to conclusion, it will take us to a place we cannot go...regardless of the way we feel about each other.

ANAKIN:
Then you do feel something!

PADMÉ:
I will not let you give up your future for me.

ANAKIN:
You're asking me to be rational. That is something I know I cannot do. Believe me, I wish that I could just wish away my feelings...but I can't.

PADMÉ:
I will not give in to this.

There is silence as they stare at the fire. ANAKIN is thinking.

ANAKIN:
Well, you know it - it wouldn't have to be that way...we could keep it a secret.

PADMÉ:
We'd be living a lie - one we couldn't keep even if we wanted to. I couldn't do that. Could you, Anakin? Could you live like that?

ANAKIN:
No. You're right. It would destroy us.

17 comments:

  1. It seems willing suspension of disbelief requires that someone, preferably everyone involved in writing/production but at least the actors, is actually capable of believing in the thing. (I'll never forget the time when I was on the stage crew for a play that involved solving a mystery and the difficulty I had holding myself back from trying to tell the detective actor backstage how to solve the case--no, I'm serious).

    Particularly in a romantic scene, having the script showing is remarkably painful. Every now and then (hopefully seldom) one is reminded this is also true in one's own life.

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  2. And these lines have sort of an interesting unintended backlash to them, eh?

    PADMÉ:
    We'd be living a lie - one we couldn't keep even if we wanted to. I couldn't do that. Could you, Anakin? Could you live like that?

    ANAKIN:
    No. You're right. It would destroy us.

    --so let's cut out of the studio and go have a beer and plan how we can live off a stipend from our current assets and spin anarchist political theories off on cable talk shows.

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  3. Ugh. Painful.

    Interesting trivia ...

    You're asking me to be rational. That is something I know I cannot do. Believe me, I wish that I could just wish away my feelings...but I can't.

    ... that's also a popular quote from Ben Roethlisburger.

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  4. P.S. If you haven't watched the series of video analyses on YouTube by the guy (in character) tearing apart Episodes I and II, you really must. They're genius.

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  5. "having the script showing is remarkably painful"

    I know! Who thought reading those lines could be as painful as seeing them on screen, but there it is. Clearly nobody, as you say, put any real feeling or attempt at authenticity here. These two are like opposing magnets in this scene. Curiously, they were also paired up in last year's awful New York, I Love You.

    Jason, the best part about the "wish" line is how he delivers it. If you can stomach it, watch him at 2:53 "wish" away his feelings back into the shadows. Then get ready for the INTENSE eye squint at 3:00.

    I've seen bits of Red Letter Media's takedowns of the prequels, but you could do as much damage just with this scene alone (or the one before it, where he uses the Force to play with Padme's fruit).

    How does this scene start, anyway? They're just awkwardly sitting on the sofa in silence for a while before he blurts out this soul garbage?

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  6. One of those scenes that will forever be remembered as one of the most atrocious display of acting (and writing). Everyone involved here dropped the ball starting with George Lucas who should never be allowed near a pen ever again. And of course the actors, who should still do their best to come out looking competent, and clearly they didn't.

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  7. No, no they did not at all. Portman is getting all kinds of Oscar buzz for her performance in the upcoming Black Swan, but it will take a long career of those to overshadow this trilogy. Not that much of it was her fault, really (the writing and directing were as consistent as this scene), but a generation of kids know her only as Padme. I think. Christensen, meanwhile, has done little to redeem himself aside from Shattered Glass. I'm beginning to wonder if his career made fade out entirely sooner rather than later...

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  8. Daniel,

    I enjoyed this scene because the words are awkward and the body language / facial expressions are awkward.

    They seem very innocent in that the expression of this (overwhelming) love will necessarily come across as cringe-worthily earnest and soppy. It makes sense.
    The words need to be uncomfortable. They are uncomfortable with their feelings and with expressing them.

    A script that is polished of all 'imperfections' would remove some of this awkwardness by giving the scene a professional varnish.

    It's not the best scene ever but shouldn't love scenes be slightly embarrassing for those not involved? Shouldn't a crying scene be pathetic (as in create pity) and cringe-making rather than making the audience want to cry automatic tears too?

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  9. Thanks for visiting, Stephen. I suppose it would be unfair to have expected a touching romance for the ages in this movie, or even a believable romance (considering the story is about intergalactic relations), but my problem is less with the awkwardness of young romance and more with the awkwardness of these actors playing these particular characters as they are written, if that makes sense.

    In short, I agree with you but think the actors don't play a naturally awkward couple here (it's been done much better in dozens of half-baked romantic comedies). Christensen's facial expressions are forced and painful, for example, not innocent and hopeful.

    But you raise a really interesting point, and I have to consider whether crying scenes, as you say, should more effectively elicit pity or empathy, two very different things...

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  10. "but my problem is less with the awkwardness of young romance and more with the awkwardness of these actors playing these particular characters as they are written, if that makes sense."

    Yes, Daniel. I understand and agree that to an extent the acting and the writing failed to convey awkwardness fully.

    I'm just happy to see scenes like these that aren't polished of all raw feeling. The very fact that so many people dislike it shows that it is doing something different that puts people on edge (for good or bad)!

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  11. Ha, well that's a defense I can't very well argue with!

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  12. I'd be interested to hear what would qualify as a bad romantic scene to you, Stephen, if not this one. I'm not being facetious, I actually would.

    If you've ever been to, say, an open mic night and someone is trying really hard but they just cannot sing well at all, in fact, painfully badly, it does make me emotional, I grant you. Makes me feel bad. However, the fact that the song they are trying to sing is a sad one doesn't mean the chance meeting of my emotion and the song creates a great performer out of the poor fellow or gal. Why not? Because I never want to undergo the same process again, which is a tertiary emotive force not conducive to performers' careers.

    I may or may not be the open mic singer in this story...ok, I am, but that still doesn't change things.

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  13. "I'd be interested to hear what would qualify as a bad romantic scene to you, Stephen, if not this one. I'm not being facetious, I actually would."

    One I don't believe in. The acting isn't great but it isn't poor. I believe what we are meant to be believe here.

    The emotion I felt during the scene was from the relationship, not a happy by-product of a botched performance. When it comes to singing I have never felt emotional over a performance that is out of tune. I think this scene in AOTC is out-of-tune with the norm but the performance is not out-of-tune with the content or the intention.

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  14. Thanks, Stephen--this is interesting. Here is my question: could there be a scene that was universally disliked/despised, but that was nevertheless produced as a product to pop culture consumers?

    Anyway, it would be terrible form to try to convince someone they should dislike something that's believable to them (with a few exceptions not usually related to film). And it would be an intrusion on Daniel's very nice blog.

    Your blog looks pretty interesting, btw.

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  15. "...could there be a scene that was universally disliked/despised, but that was nevertheless produced as a product to pop culture consumers?"

    Sure. A film can miss its target. I don't understand your 'nevertheless' here, though - it makes it sound like the making comes after the reception.

    "Anyway, it would be terrible form to try to convince someone they should dislike something that's believable to them"

    Yes, I agree.

    "Your blog looks pretty interesting, btw."

    Thank you.

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  16. For the record, Will, there are no intrusions here unless you're trying to sell Viagra. All other commentary and discussion is encouraged!

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  17. Thanks, Daniel.

    I'll try to refrain from making my sales pitch here.

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