Symbolism in Attack of the Clones (currently discussing shrouding and obscuring)

Discussion in 'Attack of the Clones' started by Shelley, Jan 13, 2003.

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  1. Shelley Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 9, 2001
    star 5
    Shmi is bound in a very crucifixion like way in the Tuskens' tent; when she dies in Anakin's arms it also looks very like Michelangelo's Pieta. (here's some images for reference) [image=http://www.christusrex.org/www1/citta/Bs-Pieta.jpg]

    [image=http://www.sgtfretsurfer.com/Grilled-Sarlacc/s/i/3076.jpg]

    Except, of course, the roles are reversed: it's the son holding the mother's lifeless body.

    Anakin is a messianic figure (immaculate conception, "he is the Chosen One"), but instead of him being "crucified," his mother is, and it's this event that is the catalyst for his descension to the Dark Side -- the inverse of Jesus's death.

    (Side note: Pernilla August also played the Virgin Mary in the TV movie "Mary, Mother of Jesus.")

    Anyone have any thoughts on the symbolism? Do you think it has symbolism other than Judeo-Christian?

    YJ edits: Title
  2. bjbrickm Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Feb 14, 2002
    star 3
    I was wondering about the crescent shaped scar on her face. Does that tie into anything? I know you could say don't read into things too much, but the scar didn't have to be crescent shaped - it could of just been a line. So is this just the spontaneity of the make-up artist, or is something more going on here?
  3. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    I don't find the death scene to be terribly symbolic in and of itself, but the scenes aroun d it are:

    -Anakin leaves the homestead when it's still light out. At this point, his only goal is to rescue his mother.

    -He reaches the Tusken camp in the middle of the night, his intentions unclear(watch his face when he looks at the camera).

    -He 'dies' along with his mother-his good side after this will be recessive compared to his good side. Hope dies in the darkness as Anakin touches the Dark Side.

    -He comes back to the homestead in the morning. It's a new day; the galaxy will never be the same after this.
  4. DamonD Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Nov 22, 2002
    star 6
    It's been mentioned before, but the red evening sky is symbolic of a descent into Hell, as is Anakin's drop down from the ledge high above the Tusken Camp.
  5. ami-padme Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Sep 19, 1999
    star 4
    I was wondering about the crescent shaped scar on her face. Does that tie into anything?

    I remember back when AOTC came out, someone pointed out that it's similar in shape and position to one of the scars on Anakin's face when he's unmasked during his death scene in ROTJ. I haven't watched Jedi in awhile, but I think that was pretty accurate.

    Actually, there is some symmetry between Shmi's death scene and Anakin's death scene, not in any specifics really, but just in the way the sons mourn the parent and the parent tries to impart their last words before dying.


    I'm not sure what to make of the meaning of the imagery of the death scene beyond what Shelley already said...Anakin acts as a sort-of inverse savior-figure in the prequels, and that's reflected in him holding his mother's body after she's essentially been crucified. And I agree with Boba -- there's definitely significance in Anakin traveling with a setting sun and into the night the first time he really experiences the Dark Side. Nice comments. :) And good thread topic.
  6. JediGaladriel Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 1999
    star 5
    Well, here are shots of his wounds and hers.

    [image=http://members.aol.com/fernwithy/unmasked.jpg]

    [image=http://www.theforce.net/multimedia/archive/Images/Episode_2/Characters/Shmi_Skywalker/aotc-shmi_skywalker.jpg]

    On the question of the imagery, I can't believe I missed the crucifixion imagery in my early viewings. The pieta came right out (probably because I was reading My Name is Asher Lev at the time, and Potok talked a lot about using the images and their evocations).

    What do the crucifixion and pieta mean? I remember being lectured on the difference between the Protestant empty cross (symbolizing the Ascension, redemption) and the Catholic crucifix (symbolizing the Sacrifice for the sake of others). Don't know if that means anything. The AotC scene seems to use the latter very strongly... but for whom does Shmi suffer, and what does her suffering mean?

    People have commented on the arena sequence as a mirrored crucifixion scene, but I don't think it really has the same feel to it--it's a different mode of execution and a different context... how is that different?

    Another point about Shmi's death and its symbolism is that it is the culmination of a sequence of three deaths of women, all bloody and dirty... very much unlike other deaths we've seen in SW. Previously, we'd mainly seen people killed "cleanly" in space battles or ground battles... the snow on Hoth did not turn red. We saw Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon die in duels; Obi-Wan disappeared, and Qui-Gon's wound was clean (though his was the first "surprise" death of a main character and he hadn't seemed to finish everything. We saw Yoda die peacefully in his sleep, and Anakin die redemptively at his son's side.

    Now, we come to AotC, and the first thing we see is the death of Dorme, who is bruised and bloody, her hair and clothes askew as she dies on a still burning landing platform. Then we see Zam Wessell, mutilated and struggling to breathe, shot by her colleage in a garbage-filled alley behind a seedy club. Finally, we see Shmi, tortured for a month and bloated (probably internal hemhorraging, which would account for why she died when Anakin moved her), dying with dirt and blood all over her face. All three women try to express themselves in their last moments, but don't quite finish.

    Thoughts on that pattern?
  7. MissPadme Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 9, 1998
    star 4
    JG, it was the unfortunate Corde who buys it at the beginning of AOTC ;). I know, Corde/Dorme, potato/po-tah-to, tomato/to-mah-to...

    Anyway, interesting observation about the bloodied and gruesome deaths of three female characters. Never considered that before. Could it be foreshadowing of what will eventually happen to Padme? A destruction of the feminine force/influence that keeps things in balance?

    As for the crucifixion imagery, crucifixion as a form of execution has its roots in paganism, the polytheistic Roman Empire. The scene in the arena is reminiscent of the Christians being fed to the lions, which was another Roman method of execution. The Geonosian arena reminds me of how the Colosseum in Rome looks on the inside today, though the majority of martyred Christians were killed in the nearby Circus Maximus.

    --MissPadme
  8. forever_jedi Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 5, 2002
    star 5
    On my second or third viewing, the Pieta imagery stood out clearly. I think it's quite deliberate. There have been many questions about why Shmi's head lolls back when she dies; some have suggested that it looks stupid. I think not. I think the head lolling back was because then it would be a strikingly similar image to the Pieta.

    but for whom does Shmi suffer, and what does her suffering mean?

    Well, one explanation is that Shmi is deliberately made to suffer to draw in Anakin, much like Han's torture to lure Luke in ESB. If so, Shmi suffers for her son's sake, to redeem him from the dark side. But instead of being redeemed, he gives into his anger and falls further into sin. Instead of sorrow and grief, his face is flooded with anger when he finally looks up in that scene.
  9. Falls_the_Shadow Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 31, 2002
    star 3
    Notice too that the image is flipped on the vertical. In the Pieta, the bulk of the sculpture is on the right, from the point of view of Christ and the Virgin Mary, not the observers. Christ is cradled on the right side of his mother, the Virgin Mary.

    The Western tradition of equating evil with the sinister, literally left in Latin carries on here. When Anakin looks up in his furious gaze, he turns leftward.

    Good topic. Although was briefly discussed in either the Mythology of AOTC thread or at the Defenders thread, it has enough room for discussion as a solo thread.
    The_Abstract discussed the Marian imagery in connection to Shmi and Padmé.

    JediGaladriel wrote: Another point about Shmi's death and its symbolism is that it is the culmination of a sequence of three deaths of women, all bloody and dirty... very much unlike other deaths we've seen in SW. Previously, we'd mainly seen people killed "cleanly"

    JediGaladriel, as usual, you are onto something here. Watching the OT after AOTC perhaps the biggest change was the noticeable lack of women, save for Leia and some background extras.

    The bloody and dirty deaths of these three women echo the Dark Side destruction of the Living Force in the main plot. It continues with those female Jedi who are not the survivors of the dusty and bloody area.

    As Paul McDonald (jediheritic47) in his Suite101 essays discussed, the Dark Side is suppressing the creative living force, manufacturing machines and turning men into machines. First, he is manufacturing motherless children and somehow by the end of Episode III, he will turn Anakin, gifted in body and soul, into ?more machine than man.?
  10. TheVioletBurns Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 27, 2002
    star 4
    Morbidly fascinating. Woo, I love this sort of stuff. Great posts, everybody.

    As Paul McDonald (jediheritic47) in his Suite101 essays discussed, the Dark Side is suppressing the creative living force, manufacturing machines and turning men into machines. First, he is manufacturing motherless children and somehow by the end of Episode III, he will turn Anakin, gifted in body and soul, into ?more machine than man.?

    One of the things I love most about the preqs is how the personal journey is mirrored almost perfectly by the larger, societal one. The clones are essentially tampered human beings, whose individuality/independence has been nullified - manufactured artificially and used as killing machines, to destroy even more life. They are prepped and released just as Anakin begins his own downward spiral.
  11. JediGaladriel Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 1999
    star 5
    Interesting point about the Roman arenas as opposed to the actual crucifixion--that's an historical progression, from the seminal event to something that happened to followers. I'm not really making heads or tales of the meaning at the moment, but it would be fun to talk about it.

    Notice too that the image is flipped on the vertical.

    That's an interesting point in conjunction with the focus on people moving in the "wrong" direction in various battle scenes.

    A destruction of the feminine force/influence that keeps things in balance?

    That's along the line of what I'm thinking, and it fits with the creation of the clones as well. Anakin is the miraculous child of a woman without a man; the clones are the technologically induced children of a man without a woman--mirror images. The Empire may allow a certain depraved yin, like Jabba's palace, but the strong feminine is rather brutally removed from it.

    EDIT
    As for the crucifixion imagery, crucifixion as a form of execution has its roots in paganism, the polytheistic Roman Empire.

    By the way, does anyone have any idea what crucifixion meant in the pagan Roman context? Why it would be chosen above one of their many other methods of execution? Did it have any symbolic significance to them? (It took some on; one of the saints was crucified upside down on an x-shaped cross, as I recall, but that may have been specific to the situation and I'm thinking about generalities here.)
  12. The_Abstract Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jul 16, 2002
    star 4
    By the way, does anyone have any idea what crucifixion meant in the pagan Roman context? Why it would be chosen above one of their many other methods of execution? Did it have any symbolic significance to them?


    That's a great question. I just wish I had an answer to it. :confused:

    Other than it being a very easy and very cruel way to punish criminals, I have no idea how it evolved. Maybe it began by just nailing people to trees, and then grew into some spectator ceremony. Empire's can get very creative in their methods once they achieve some sort of relative stability.



    Back to the original topic for a bit. I too was surprised by the very distinct image of Anakin and Shmi in the Tusken hut. I was very fortunate to attend a mass this year that celebrates Mary at the Foot of the Cross, and was witness to a extremely moving homily. In that instance, it is pointed out that Jesus gives his disciple and his mother to each other, to look after each other after he is gone, and to bear each other's burden; the lesson being, that even at the darkest moment, we do not have to suffer alone.

    We get a stark contrast in AOTC, because Anakin goes on a singular quest to find his mother, and ends up in a place of despair and loneliness. At that exact moment, when Shmi dies, he feels the burden of her suffering, and with no one immediately there to share it, he lashes out at those responsible. It is only in reflection and regret, he is able to see his sins for what they are, and trust someone like Padmé to comfort him.
  13. Shelley Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 9, 2001
    star 5
    We get a stark contrast in AOTC, because Anakin goes on a singular quest to find his mother, and ends up in a place of despair and loneliness. At that exact moment, when Shmi dies, he feels the burden of her suffering, and with no one immediately there to share it, he lashes out at those responsible. It is only in reflection and regret, he is able to see his sins for what they are, and trust someone like Padmé to comfort him.

    (On the DVD, she tells him "to be angry is to be human," to which Anakin replies, "I'm a Jedi. I'm better than that." This was cut from the theatrical release.)

    Anakin is horrified at what he's done, but at the same time he is full of righteous indignation: "They're animals, and I slaughtered them like animals! I hate them!" Jesus, on the other hand, said while on the cross: "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." Certainly he had as much reason to hate those who crucified him as Anakin did to hate the Tuskens, but he nonetheless forgave them.

    By the way, does anyone have any idea what crucifixion meant in the pagan Roman context? Why it would be chosen above one of their many other methods of execution? Did it have any symbolic significance to them?

    Good question. I don't know if it had any symbolic significance other than it was used as a warning to the populace: this is what will happen to you if you step out of line. (Vlad the Impaler's ghastly methods of execution were similarly used as crime deterrents.) Often the bodies of the crucified were not taken down, but left up as carrion instead of being properly buried; it was the final humiliation and degradation.

    As for the saint who was crucified upside down, that was Peter, IIRC. I recall the passage in "'Salem's Lot," after Ben, Mark, Jimmy and Father Callahan discover Straker's body -- Father Callahan says that executing your enemy/betrayer in such a way that his head faces earth instead of heaven dates back to Macedonia.
  14. JediGaladriel Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 1999
    star 5
    I looked up crucifixion in the Columbia encyclopedia -- no special signficance to the shape, though it did say that it was a punishment reserved for slaves and "particularly despised malefactors." The slave reference is interesting in context, neh?
  15. DarthBoba Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jun 29, 2000
    star 9
    Yup..and another thing I thought of that makes this scene unique:

    Note Anakin's changeover from deep sadness to pure rage & anger. It's not often we see something like that in a movie. One minute, he's incredibly sad..the next, after he looks back up, he's a cauldron of boiling rage. You see it in his eyes, and it's quite terrifying from my POV.
    More symbolism-I gleaned this from stardestroyer.net:

    Stars were once thought to be souls in heaven, IIRC. Thus, there's a lot of dead folks watching Anakin's descent into hell, and one of them is Qui-Gon. (The original author-Mike Wong-worded it a lot better.)

    A subtle thing: Anakin beheads all the Tuskens we see him actually kill. Note that the other Jedi don't generally do this in battle against living opponents-we only see Mace behead Jango in the arena battle.
    Another subtle thing differentiating Anakin from other Jedi: He generally mutilates the heck out of his opponents-watch him fighting the Geonosians. There are no clean, Qui-Gon Jinn style kills; there's wings getting lopped off (Ouch!) folks being sliced in half down the middle..more signs of his Sithian tendencies.
  16. caliman Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Sep 26, 2000
    star 1
    Damond said:

    It's been mentioned before, but the red evening sky is symbolic of a descent into Hell, as is Anakin's drop down from the ledge high above the Tusken Camp.



    I see the hell symbolism, and can add to it. My thinking is that it's remenicent of Jesus being temped to come down from the mountain top by Satan. Jesus, doesn't. Anakin does. And so begins the transfermation.

    If Jesus had come down, he would have started becoming more machine than man (in the sense that machines are controlled, and Jesus would have been under the influence of Satan). And of course we all know what happens to Anakin's machine journey.
  17. DarthBreezy Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Jun 4, 2002
    star 6
    AHHHH.. just when I was loosing faith in The AOTC thread... even thought the topic is wandering into more of the general symbolism:

    People have commented on the arena sequence as a mirrored crucifixion scene,

    Just an interesting note... In Christian mythos, Jesus was crucified between two thieves... in the middle... not to say that Padme' and Obiwan are to be confused with criminals but it's interseting to note the placement... the "chosen one" crucifeid in the middle.. OR on another angle... Anakin is placed symbolicly between the two things that he must eventually choose between.. Obiwan and Padme'....
  18. JediGaladriel Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 1999
    star 5
    I see the hell symbolism, and can add to it. My thinking is that it's remenicent of Jesus being temped to come down from the mountain top by Satan. Jesus, doesn't. Anakin does. And so begins the transfermation.

    Oh, nice catch, caliman! That's an excellent point!

    I think for the general symbolism stuff, maybe another symbol thread? I sort of miss my old "Random Symbols" ivory tower thread, now that I'm back in discussions...
  19. ShaakRider Jedi Knight

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    Nov 14, 2002
    star 2
    Threads like this one make me love AOTC :)
  20. MissPadme Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 9, 1998
    star 4
    Threads like this one make me love AOTC.

    That's the idea, amigo ;).

    The entire sequence in the Tusken camp is full of religious symbolism which is part of the reason why it's so powerful. Anakin essentially begins his descent into hell at that point and I agree, DarthBoba, it's creepy to see how Anakin's expression changes so quickly from sorrow to fury. Man, the scary look in his eyes!

    DB, good call on Anakin's position between Padme and Obi-Wan. I never considered that before either.

    --MissPadme
  21. Shelley Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Sep 9, 2001
    star 5
    Note Anakin's changeover from deep sadness to pure rage & anger. It's not often we see something like that in a movie. One minute, he's incredibly sad..the next, after he looks back up, he's a cauldron of boiling rage. You see it in his eyes, and it's quite terrifying from my POV.

    It certainly is. One of the most indelible images not just in the PT but the entire saga.

    [image=http://www.sgtfretsurfer.com/Grilled-Sarlacc/s/i/death.jpg]

    After killing the first two Tuskens, he's still got the look in his eyes:

    [image=http://www.sgtfretsurfer.com/Grilled-Sarlacc/s/i/aotc14.jpg]
  22. Sophita Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 24, 2002
    star 4
    God I love threads like this. :D

    Something I noticed today: Is Anakin symbolically damned after Shmi's death? While the other character's clothes change from darker to lighter colours and/or lose darker articles, Anakin consistantly wears darker clothes, and remains a more shadowy figure.
  23. rhonderoo Former Head Admin

    Member Since:
    Aug 7, 2002
    star 9
    God I love threads like this.

    Something I noticed today: Is Anakin symbolically damned after Shmi's death? While the other character's clothes change from darker to lighter colours and/or lose darker articles, Anakin consistantly wears darker clothes, and remains a more shadowy figure.


    Me too, Sophita! :)

    One thing I noticed was how Anakin "grew up" the minute his feet hit the soil of Tatooine. Not just his dress, but his attitude, his demeanor, everything.

    Padme always seemed to have the upper hand, so to speak before, and as we see in the Tatooine scenes, Anakin starts to actively mature. Not necessarily in a good way. In the case of Shmi, I've often wondered if Luke had that little piece of information regarding his grandmother (how close she and Anakin were), if he knew which button to push with Anakin - because we know now...his mother and his wife, would he have not turned sooner?

  24. Eastwood Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jan 15, 2003
    star 1
    I agree completely MissPadme.

    This is one of the most pivotal, emotional and underrated scenes in the film and brilliantly develops Anikins charachter.

    It also adds weight to the emotional "good bye" in TPM as you know he is never going to return to free her and the other slaves
  25. Otis_Frampton LFL Artist, Moderator Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Jan 7, 2001
    star 4
    This thread is an example of why I come to these boards.

    Wonderful ideas being floated here, keep it up.

    -Otis
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