I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it! Today we’re wrapping things up at Aughra’s place, 28:02-30:41 on the Blu-ray.
There’s a fade and accompanying music cue to show the passage of time, but the action doesn’t leave Aughra’s orrery. It’s just later now. How much later is left ambiguous. Aughra hangs out in the back of the room, peering around the giant machine. It almost looks as if she’s staring right at the camera. No, she’s watching Jen from a distance. Jen, with his back to her, looks at three of the crystal shards he picked out from the ones Aughra gave him. In voiceover, he says he knows it’s one of these three, but he’s not sure which one. Aughra tells him to hurry, and he frets over how to choose. He has a flashback to the Mystics doing their deep-voiced chant, and he pulls out his flute. He plays a note that sort-of matches the chant, and the middle of the three shards glows with a purple light in response. Jen stops playing, but the shard continues the note, in something of a high-pitched chime. That’s how we know this is the shard Jen’s been searching for.
Lots of questions about this shard. We know Jen needs it to heal the Dark Crystal, and it’s pretty much a given that this is a piece of the Dark Crystal, but how did it get to Aughra’s place? And how did she not know which one it is? The first thing we must remember is that although the Dark Crystal – with a capital “C” – is the main Crystal that this world, and the story, revolves around, this world is full of all kinds of crystals. The tie-in books tell us that after the second conjunction, when the Crystal cracked, all kinds of crystal shards fell from the Skeksis’ castle. Aughra gathered up as many of them as she could, hoping that one was the missing piece of the Dark Crystal. The specifics of this are detailed in the second Creation Myths graphic novel, but that version of the story varies just slightly from the World of the Dark Crystal book and the official website. The next question is why would the shard respond to Jen’s flute. Some have called it mere plot convenience, yet real-life crystals are known to have interesting properties in relation to sound and harmonics. Furthermore, Creation Myths tells us that life on Thra began not with a word or a light, but with song, and the Crystal was birthed from this song. So responding to music is a big part of the Crystal’s identity.
Back at the orrery, Aughra screeches out a long “Yessss!” and marches over to Jen. She exposits that no one told Jen what to do with the shard. But she knows. She’s about to tell him, but they’re interrupted by noise and commotion outside. Before we get to the action, let’s talk a little bit more about Aughra. Why is she so contradictory? She insists that all Gelflings are dead, but then quickly takes to the idea that Jen is a Gelfling. She goads him into asking her questions, but when he does, she says there’s no time to answer. Once you’ve read the tie-in books, you see a huge contradiction in her, where in the books she’s the wise, kind earth-mother type, and in the movie she’s this batty old lady. If I may speculate, I believe the answer is in what happens after the books but before the movie – the Gelfling genocide. Prior to the movie, the Skeksis and the Garthim had hunted and killed almost all the Gelflings. At this point in the movie, first-time viewers believe Jen is the only one left. Aughra knows about the upcoming third conjunction and the prophecy, which states that the Dark Crystal must be healed by Gelfling hand. I suspect that Aughra went kooky believing that all the Gelflings are dead and disaster at the third conjunction is imminent. Even with Jen’s arrival, Aughra supports him on his journey, but still sees it a long shot. There’s also Aughra’s son. Yes, she has a son, Raunip. His story is told in Creation Myths, but there’s still no official reason as to why he’s not around in the movie. If Raunip came to an end in some horrible tragedy, then it’s possible that’s why she acts kind of out-of-it now. Finally, we’re told over and over how Aughra is connected to this world as sees everything. But if the world is “cracked” just as the Crystal is, that likely has an effect on her state of mind as well, especially after a thousand years of this.
OK, enough philosophizing. Time for scary monster stuff! The Garthim attack the orrery, smashing through the windows (they have glass on this world) and knocking over tables. There’s a funny bit where Jen looks down at the shard instead of up at the Garthim as they attack. Perhaps he suspects the Garthim are after the shard and not him. A Garthim knocks over another table, and this starts a fire (there was already a lit flame on it from one of Aughra’s chemistry set-ups) Aughra says “Out! Get out!” to them, but they keep tearing up the place. A Garthim makes a move for Jen. For all the critics who say Jen does nothing, here we get to see him spring into action. He ducks out of the way of the Garthim’s claws, and then climbs up onto Aughra’s giant machine. It’s parkour before parkour was cool. The Garthim show how strong they are by grabbing onto the machine’s globes and stopping from spinning. The audio really stands out here, with sound effects of more machinery breaking down under the floor. Too bad for the Garthim that Jen is now on the upper level of the orrery. He hops off the machine and then leaps through a window. He does this by turning around and jumping back-first through it. Is that a stuntman thing? There’s a shot of Aughra watching him do this, and then a wide shot of the Garthim trashing the machine. She picks up what looks like a crude microscope and throws it at a Garthim. I guess this is more out of frustration than an actual attack. She cries out, “My home! My home!” Oddly, this line is not on the Blu-ray’s subtitles, even though you can hear it clearly. This also establishes that she lives there.
We cut to outside, with Jen sliding down a hill. He tumbles and falls until landing in some tall grass. He looks up at the orrery to see it burning in flames. It also looks really far away. It’s another passage of time question, in that how long was he sliding down the hill? Jen says just “Aughra,” to let us know he’s thinking of her, and then he runs off into the woods. The camera pans over, and there’s the Skeksis Chamberlain, watching him. We know it’s the Chamberlain because he does that whimper again. Why didn’t the Chamberlain just abduct Jen right there? We’re not told, except that we know the Skeksis have a penchant for scheming and plotting, so perhaps he wanted to study Jen more before making his move. How did the Chamberlain get there? Remember where he was the last time we saw him – secretly following the Garthim. They led him here.
We get one last shot of the orrery, with an extra big burst of flame coming from it, to punctuate the scene. Hey, we’re now officially one-third of the way through the movie!
Next week: It’s the Muppet Show!
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