I freakin’ love The Dark Crystal! Let’s watch it! Today, our hero Jen hits his lowest point, 49:02-50:27 on the Blu-ray.
There’s a very lengthy shot of Jen and Kira running from the Garthim’s attack on the Podling, the idea being to let the audience know they’re covering a lot of distance. Jen run-falls down a small slope, and Kira stops him, saying “They won’t find us here.” Jen is in the dumps, saying, “It’s all my fault.” Kira is more pragmatic, taking stock of their situation, explaining to herself (and the audience) that the Skeksis saved them from his own Garthim. She’s clearly befuddled as to why the Skeksis would do this.
Jen is too busy having a full-on pity party. You can actually see real tears on his face as he says, “First Aughra’s, now your village.” He picks up the crystal shard, says he wishes he’d never heard of it, and then, unthinkably, he throws it away. That’s right, he just chucks it off deeper into the woods. Why does he do this? Is it out of character? We have to remember that the audience still knows a lot more about what’s happening than Jen does. The audience has seen the Dark Crystal and gotten a sense of its power. Jen, however, only knows that there’s something called the Dark Crystal, but that’s it. All Jen knows is that he was tasked with finding this shard, and the shard merely led him twice into the destructive path of the Garthim. So, strictly from his point of view, the shard is not something that heals, but an object of destruction. When Jen throws the shard away, it could be considered quitting. However, it could also be considered a heroic act, in that he’s rejecting the violence and negativity he believes it brings, choosing instead to find a newer, hopefully better path.
Kira says “No!” but that ends her argument. Perhaps she might have further argued her case for keeping the shard, but then she notices Jen’s arm is injured. We can assume this happened when a Garthim briefly grabbed him in the previous scene. She conveniently grabs some moss from the ground in front of them, placing it on his wound and saying it’ll make him feel better. The tone softens, perhaps even a little romantic, as Kira assures Jen that this wasn’t his fault, and that “The Garthim have always come.”
Those five words certainly say a lot, don’t they? Let’s see if I’ve got the timeline straight. The Skeksis created the Garthim to gather up all the Gelflings, so the emperor could drink all the Gelfling essence. This was the Gelfling genocide, which happened sometime after the Legends of the Dark Crystal manga, but before the events of the film. With no more Gelflings, or so the Skeksis believe, the Garthim have taken to snatching up Podlings. So Garthim raiding parties are an established “thing” in this world, happening on a regular basis. Why, then, did the Podlings in the movie seem surprised by their attack, and apparently didn’t have any defenses? The World of the Dark Crystal book and other tie-in media describes the Podlings – and the Gelflings, to a lesser extent – as living day-to-day, unconcerned with the “bigger picture” of the world around them. Another question is, why hasn’t this village been raided before? Well, Kira is believed to be of the Vapran clan, who were experts in camouflage, so if this village is in or near the Vapran wood, it might be well hidden from prying Garthim eyes, and the Garthim only found it this time because the Crystal Bats led them there in search of the Gelflings.
The passage of time: The shot fades to an image of the Mystics continuing their long journey, silhouetted against a gorgeous cloudscape. Like before, this is here to provide the sense of time passing, and of the Mystics (and the plot) making some forward progress.
I’ll end things here for now, because there’s a lot to say about what’s coming up.
Next: History, prophecy, and would you believe there actually is a human character in The Dark Crystal?!?
Want more? Check out my book, CINE HIGH, now available for the Kindle and the free Kindle app.