I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it! Just a short couple of scenes this time, 13:01-14:21 on the Blu-ray.
We see one of the Mystics playing a harp-like instrument, using two of his four hands — the two on his right side — to play. The rest of the Mystics are standing in a circle inside their Standing Stones. This shows that the stones must do more than offer protection, as described in the canon. Instead, they must be a source of magic and/or energy for a variety of purposes for the Mystics. Without the movie having to tell us, we in the audience can just deduce this is the funeral for the Mystics’ Master. The Mystics all raise their arms in unison, and one of them says, “Dear friend, be well.” According to the screenplay, the one speaking is urZah, the Ritual-Guardian. Unless I’m mistaken, he’s the one we saw creating the painting in the sand earlier.
At the center of the circle are the Master’s belongings. We know this because the Ritual-Guardian says, “Receive your belongings,” and they disappear in a flash of blue light. I assume this is magic at work, as the how and why this is possible is never really explained. These belongings, by the way, are a cane and two nondescript bundles. Not exactly a pharaoh being buried with his treasure, but who am I to question these alien creatures? The Ritual-Guardian concludes the funeral by asking the Master to watch over Jen on his dangerous quest. This funeral is the most overt reference to the characters in this world believing in an afterlife.
Jen is watching this from atop the walls of the valley, looking down on the other Masters with sadness. In voiceover, Jen promises his Master that he’ll find the shard. It’s important to remember just how much Jen doesn’t know at this point in the story. He has to find the shard, but he doesn’t know why. He knows who the Skeksis are, and he’s heard talk of the three suns converging in the sky, but he I don’t believe he knows how these things are related. Many critics argue that Jen is “dumb” or even “useless” because he can’t grasp the situation, but I’m not sure I agree.
Look closely: As Jen leaves the valley, we can see the Mystics have already separated and are walking away from the stone circle. For as slow and meditative as they are, they obviously have a “keep it short and sweet” policy when it comes to funerals.
Then we get the image that was in all the movie’s original commercials, the over-the-shoulder shot of Jen looking out over the vast, green wilderness. This is our “sense of wonder” moment as Jen begins his quest. In voice over, he says he’s not ready to go alone, but then immediately changes his mind with, “All right, alone then,” and he marches forward. See, he’s not useless. This is him being the courageous hero.
Travelogue! The next shot has Jen standing atop a massive rock with two waterfalls on either side. A lot of people on the internet swear they can see the image of a Skeksis face in the rocks here. I can sort of see it, but was this really intentional on the part of the filmmakers? That’s highly debatable. The music continues to swell as we transition to the next shot, of Jen making his way down a grassy mountainside.
There’s a lot to say about the next scene, so we’ll end here for now.
Next: Trial by stone!
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