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Billy Budd & Return of the Jedi (Endor & Throne Room)

Discussion in 'Original Trilogy' started by Jayson, Dec 18, 2019.

  1. Jayson

    Jayson Force Sensitive

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    I've written about this a few times in other threads, so I figured I should share this interesting link between the old film (1962) Billy Budd, and Return of the Jedi.

    The reason I think it's worth sharing is that Billy Budd is a pretty obscure film, and it's very rare to find it discussed in Star Wars.

    I came across this film back in high school during a film appreciation course, which was an extension of the English course at the time. And later I saw a snippet of Lucas passing mention of Billy Budd (I can't for the life of me recall what the interview was - I've tried to locate it, but I've so far been unsuccessful in digging it up...unfortunately, I don't recall anything about the interview other than Lucas was rattling off some inspirations).

    To appreciate the comparison, some context is in order.
    Billy Budd is a film about a purely good natured character, Billy, who is something akin to a sailing Forest Gump - dim witted, or simple, would be the in-world's era's way of putting it. The taskmaster, Claggart (the tall man in black with the remarkable black hat), is a callus man who sees the world as violent, ruthless, cold, and unforgiving. He believes harsh action is the only action worth taking, and that all seek to gain power over others; to take it. This is how he justifies his horrible actions (the air implies his past actions have been terrible) and refrains from being haunted by them. Billy threatens this belief because Billy is not only purely good, but regardless of what the taskmaster does to him, Billy doesn't hate him. Instead, he wants to befriend Claggart and thinks Claggart is good inside because no man can enjoy doing cruel things. He believes Claggart is not happy with himself.
    Claggart, then, focuses every ounce of his efforts to undo Billy - to cause him to turn away from his goodness, and toward the darkness of hate and malice that fits within Claggarts world view.

    With the above in mind, it becomes more clear what the inspired similarities between Billy Budd and Return of the Jedi are in the following clips.

    I have cut down the Throne Room to the relevant snippets because the Throne room takes the set up that's in Billy Budd and expands it into a much deeper narrative, but we don't need the whole thing for comparing.

    Now, in the Throne Room, the roles of the Captain and Taskmaster (Claggart) are reversed with the Emperor and Vader. In Billy Budd, Claggart is the one pushing Billy and trying to get a rise out of him. In the Throne room, it is instead the Emperor who pushes Luke and tries to get a rise out of him.

    Lucas isn't copying. It's more an inspiration which gave him a scaffold to form his own version around.

    NOTE: The video quality isn't great. I do apologize about this. However, it should suffice for the purpose.

    The clips are shown in order of Billy Budd scene, related Return of the Jedi scene.
    There are two scenes: Luke and Vader on Endor, and the Throne Room.

    First is Billy Budd and Claggart on the ship's rails at night compared to Luke and Vader on the walkway with rails at night.
    Second is Billy, the Captain, and Claggart in the Captain's quarters where Billy is tried and fails compared against Luke, the Emperor, and Vader in the Throne Room where Luke is tried and succeeds.



    Cheers,
    Jayson
     
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  2. Obi5Kenobi

    Obi5Kenobi Rebel General

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    Very interesting! I want to watch Billy Budd in its entirety now! Thank you!
     
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  3. Jayson

    Jayson Force Sensitive

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  4. Jayson

    Jayson Force Sensitive

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    Also, it's interesting actually.

    If you take the dialogue that's in ROTJ in the scenes being compared, and you hold those in mind while you watch the compared Billy Budd scenes, ROTJ's dialogue for it's scenes are almost the subtext of the Billy Budd dialogue brought to the foretext (for want of a better term...there's interestingly no antonym for subtext as a noun specific to the art of writing).

    You can subtextually hear Billy telling Claggart that he feels the good in him, and to join him from his dark path, and you can subtextually hear Claggart telling Billy that it's too late for him, and further compelling Billy to join him on the dark side of Claggart's views of the world - to which he smiles in death for having done just that in his opinion - destroyed innocence and proven to himself the lack of pure moral good; that might is the only strength.

    But then Lucas takes this subtext and just plasters it unapologetically out as the dialogue itself.
    There's NO subtext in Luke, Vader, and the Emperor's dialogue. None!

    In fact, this is any interesting aspect of Lucas. He doesn't write subtext. Ever.
    He can totally read the subtext, because he's a very versed artist of his craft, but he chooses never to employ the method.

    Instead, it's rather interesting. ALL of Lucas' subtext is in the image. Not the words. It's in the colors, the attire, the setting, and action, but never in the dialogue.
    It's like a complete reversal of the normal way of writing stories.

    Instead of the image, setting, and actions being on the nose and the dialogue containing subtext, like normal, all of his dialogue is on the nose and the image, setting, and actions carry the subtext.

    Very fascinating, actually (though it does hurt his writing pretty heftily because everyone picks up on the "wooden dialogue").

    If I had to pick one thing that I think the new films radically and principally differ on from Lucas' way of making Star Wars...it would be in the employment of the subtext.

    The new films still use visuals to convey symbolism, like the old films, but they don't use them as the subtext. They are almost overt (actually, quite often are extremely overt - e.g. Vader helmet motif, Han's dice of hope, crevasse opening between Rey and Kylo, Rey closing the door on Kylo, etc...), and the dialogue carries the subtext.

    Lucas really hates dialogue and if he had it his way, he'd tell the whole story without words and speak through the visuals of the film alone (which, he's now stated he's running off and doing just that and making films for himself he calls, "Tone Poems" which haven't any dialogue at all).

    Hmm..
    I might circle back around to this in the future and write more on that, now that I think about it more in direct comparison.

    Cheers,
    Jayson
     
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