I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it! Today we rejoin Jen on his quest, 21:44-24:35 on the Blu-ray.
In the previous scene, the Dark Crystal showed the Skeksis an image of Jen, and some in the audience might be wondering how it did that. The next shot is a closeup of a Crystal Bat, watching Jen through its camera-like eye. Of course, we’re not meant to know yet that it’s a Crystal Bat. To the first-time viewer, this is just some weird-lookin’ robot thing. I’ve noticed that a lot during this rewatch, that the movie shows us various creatures and characters before properly introducing them. I guess that speaks to the fully-immersed-in-this-world effect the filmmakers are striving for.
Jen is climbing up the side of a huge rocky cliff face, and based on the background, he’s way up high. (This is a matte painting, of course. I miss matte paintings in fantasy movies.) It fades to another shot, showing the passage of time and Jen’s progress. He is now walking through a bunch of rocks with big pink vines all around. He trips, making a nice, and all the vines spring to life, retreating into caves and holes in the walls. I love watching this scene with people who’ve never seen the movie before. It blows their minds!
Jen’s voiceover says “What in the world?” and, humorously, “This place is weird.” OK, why is Jen speaking in voiceover? He’ll do this several times in the movie, so get used to it. As the story goes, the original version of the movie had very little dialogue and no narration or voiceover. Depending in which version of the story you read, all those scenes with the Skeksis in their castle were in an alien language with subtitles, or in an alien language with no subtitles, for the truly immersive experience. Early test audiences were understandably baffled by what they were seeing, so the narrator was added, the Skeksis were redubbed into their awesome voice they now have, and we’re privy to Jen’s thoughts via voiceover. The Dark Crystal is often criticized for characters explaining things more than once. That’s because of all the head-scratching done by those confused early test audiences.
As such, Jen reminds us that he’s looking for Aughra, by following the path of the Greater Sun for a day. He seems to have travelled a long way for one day, which raises questions as to how the passage of time works on this world. Jen shows a little bit of humor, wondering if the one little crab-like creatures scuttling around could be Aughra, and then he gives us a hint of his darker side by asking “What if she murders Gelflings?”
Jen wanders into a bunch of vines (a different kind from the ones before) only to get caught up in them. Then, the vines lift him up off the ground, Ewok trap-style. He looks around for a few seconds, and then looks down and reacts with surprise. We see what he’s reacting to and… are you ready for this? It a grubby hand holding an eyeball, and the eyeball is able to move independently, looking around. It’s a real “how did they come up with this stuff?” moment. This stranger speaks in another language for a few seconds, and then we see who it is. This is, for lack of a better description, and old lady, with a wrinkled, frumpy face, long grey hair, and, uh, ram’s horns. She places the eye into its socket, with the other socket remains grossly empty. On her forehead is a circle, which many have speculated is the mystical “third eye.” Indeed, the info at DarkCrystal.com states she is three-eyed, with two blind eyes.
Yes, this is Aughra. You know it’s Augrha, I know it’s Aughra, everybody but poor Jen has figured out this Aughra. Instead of speaking in the other language, she speaks so we can understand and asks “Are you a Gelfling.” Jen says yes and introduces himself. Aughra responds with shock, and then exposits that all the Gelflings are dead, and that the Garthim killed them all, and that Jen can’t possibly be a Gelfling. She then states that Jen looks and smells like a Gelfling, and she starts convincing herself that yes, he is a Gelfling.
Jen says he’s looking for Aughra, and that his master, wisest of the Mystics, has sent him. Aughra asks “Where is he? Around here?” Can we take this to mean the Mystics at some point left the valley and visited Aughra in person? Then, we get an important exchange. Jen says his Master is dead, and Aughra responds, “Could be anywhere, then.” First, this is the most definitive statement we’ve got in the movie of these characters’ belief in an afterlife. Second, this line is allegedly taken straight from the spiritual sci-fi novel Seth Speaks by Jane Roberts, which Jim Henson, Brian Froud, and screenwriter David O’Dell had all read during preproduction. In his afterward for the second Creation Myths graphic novel O’Dell cites Seth Speaks as being a big influence on The Dark Crystal.
Jen finally puts two and two together and asks “Are you Aughra?” Aughra shows her darkly comic side by saying “Are you afraid of me? Think I’m going to eat you?” Jen doesn’t seem too freaked out by this, and says he’s seeking a crystal shard. Aughra says “Drop him,” and the vines do so at her command. She gives some more commands, this time in another language, and more vines rise up to reveal a cave entrance. She enters, without beckoning Jen to follow. It’s unspoken, I guess, because he follows anyway.
So, who is this Aughra, anyway? That’s actually a huge question to try to answer. Both of the Creation Myths graphic novels and Brian Froud’s book The World of the Dark Crystal have tons of background info on Aughra. She’s more or less the main character of both books. Basically, she’s “Mother Earth” of this world. She was created first, and she’s seen the entire planet’s history come to pass. The books show growing tree-like when she meditates, and describe how she lost her eye during the first Great Conjunction, and how she was present at the chaotic second Great Conjunction.
Just what is all this talk about conjunctions? What’s their function? We’ll get to that in detail… next time.
Next: The angle of eternity.
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