While my record with posting in the Star Wars ComLINKS series is far from perfect, I pride myself on being the first link added (for the ones I write) when Jenmarie has the post go live on Anakin and His Angel. Welllllllllll this linkup went live on October 18th. YIKES. Now I must wrestle with not meeting the arbitrary standards I set for myself. Mea culpa! My angsty writer issues aside, this month’s (or last month’s technically) topic is (was) to choose our favorite score in the films and discuss why it means so much to us/speaks to us in the way it does. Are you ready to know mine?! Has the featured image already given it away?!?
Some of these ComLINK topics really make me think (and, because I’m me, over think) but this one was easy. As soon as I heard the topic I knew what I’d write about. My all time favorite musical score in all of the Star Wars films is “Across The Stars,” Anakin and Padmé’s love theme from Attack Of The Clones. Easy. No question. (I know the Star Wars fan base in general tends to hate Attack Of The Clones the most of all the Prequels but it’s my favorite and I’m proud to say so! This incredible score is part of the reason why too.) I can listen to this piece again and again and again and it moves me every time. However, I was totally expecting Jenmarie to write about “Across The Stars” (given her love for Anakin and Padmé) so I was actually planning on writing about “Ewok Celebration/Finale” from Return Of The Jedi. Is that dishonest? Maybe but I wanted to add variety to the series and I also love Return Of The Jedi so much so I was cool with that. But then Jenmarie totally surprised me and wrote about “The Imperial March”! So I went back to my original plan :).
Before I go any further, let’s listen to this perfect score John Williams wrote to express the love between Padmé and Anakin. I’m a good writer (he said modestly) but I can’t even begin to express a fraction of what this piece conveys, even if my post is a thousand pages long (which it won’t be, promise). So let’s just listen and feel this together…
WOW. Every time…every single time I listen to this piece it moves me. It strikes me in different ways too. Sometimes, depending on my mood, I hear and feel different things in the score. Now, similar to how I feel under qualified to talk about the art in comic books as I lack the formal background to explain what I see, I can’t speak to the technical aspects of this score. I can’t explain how it was assembled or how it makes me feel the way it makes me feel. I can’t speak about crescendos and decrescendos and quarter notes and timpani (whatever that is…it’s some sort of music term (I think)) and the strings and the horns and those sorts of things. Sometimes I wish I could but that’s not me. But I can talk about my feels.
What I love so much about “Across The Stars” is how perfectly John Williams captures the beautiful tragedy that is Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker’s love. At the heart (no pun intended) of the Star Wars Saga, George Lucas has given us Soul Mates who can never truly be together, not in the way they deserve. They find each other and they love each other passionately. But their love must always remain a secret. The three years they share together, their entire relationship, is set against the backdrop of the Clone Wars. Not only must they keep their love a secret because it’s forbidden in many ways but their duties in their respective lives keep them apart as well. They are Soul Mates who only ever have stolen moments together. However, it doesn’t end there. Their love will be destroyed in the fires of Mustafar, consumed and corrupted by the Dark Side of the Force. Anakin Skywalker pays for the rise of Darth Vader with his soul and, as a result, the love he shared with his Soul Mate. The Dark Side promises power but it costs everything of value to us…and there is nothing more valuable than love.
Somehow John Williams makes me feel all of that and more in this gorgeous piece. Even in the very beginning of the score, I feel a tinge of sadness mixed with the joy and anticipation that fills the beginning of a flirtation. The tension in the piece seems to grow along with the passion; it’s exciting but it’s also dangerous. How true is this of love?! The score captures the universal experience of falling in love so perfectly! But there’s more to it than that, as Padmé and Anakin sadly have more pain in store for them than most lovers. The song is triumphant and euphoric (as only love can make you feel!) while also breeding a sense of foreboding. We don’t hear the tragic end of their love in “Across The Stars” but it is hinted at just enough so we remember what’s in store for these two Soul Mates. There will be no happy ending.
In addition to feeling the euphoria of love, I feel the pain that’s to come as well. It just makes me feel it all! Listening to “Across The Stars” has always made me want to pull the Beloved close and hold them tight for our time together is limited and each precious moment must be enjoyed before we’re torn apart. In mystic poetry (poetry written in a religion’s mystical tradition), God is often personified as the Beloved. Mystics are people who have such an intimate relationship with God that they are literally in love with creation. Listening to “Across The Stars” makes me feel like I’m reading Rumi, Catherine of Sienna, Hafiz, Teresa of Avila, Rabia, or John of the Cross. It feels like mystic poetry and it affects my heart in much the same way. I feel the love. I feel the sadness. I feel the trepidation and the realization that I’ll go forward all the same because love is worth any price. And I feel the Beloved.
What’s always fascinated me is, for all their differences, the Jedi and the Sith fear love and the Beloved in the much the same way. On that note, the two orders are remarkably similar. They each fear love because it’s unpredictable and uncontrollable. It grows, moves, shifts, changes, and (sometimes) leaves with all the captivating and unanswerable questions of an authentic mystical encounter. We often want to be able to control love. We want assurances. We want to bend it to our will. But thinking we can control love (or that we have the right too) is as fallacious as believing we can control God and bend God to our whims. There’s this incredible exchange in (500) Days Of Summer (one of the greatest films about love of all time (seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet you need to)) which perfectly illustrates this truth about love.
After a fight about whether or not they are “a couple,” Summer arrives at Tom’s door and they have one of the most important and meaningful conversations of the film. There is so much truth in what they say to each other. Tom tells her, “Look. We don’t have to put a label on it. That’s fine. I get it. But, you know, I just need some consistency. I need to know that you’re not gonna wake up in the morning and feel differently.” Summer tenderly responds, “But I can’t give you that. Nobody can.” Just writing about this one line makes me want to go watch the film again! What Tom expresses is a universal hope/desire in love. But Summer’s reply is a universal truth–hence the risk in love. Love, to a degree, must always be an act of faith. And John Williams perfectly expresses this inexpressible nature of love in “Across The Stars”! His score tenderly illustrates the exciting, life-giving, unpredictable and tumultuous experience of love. I feel the wild, capricious (and unstoppable) journey of the heart each time I listen to it.
I want to write more, but I don’t think I can. I can’t write more because the song is love and how can I begin to explain that? I do often write about love on this site. I think about it a lot and I spend a lot of time talking about it in my classes. I tell my students all the time that how we define love is the most important question of our lives. But, as love is also the Divine, part of that answer will always be beyond our ability to express. “Across The Universe” is the experience of love and the shadow of tragedy and, as such, is always going to be beyond the ability of words to fully capture. With that in mind, even though I’ve already put this above, I think it’s best to let John Williams, the London Symphony Orchestra, and “Across The Stars” have the last word. May Love always guide us and may we always have the courage to follow wherever Love will lead.