…except that it starts with Star Wars. Sorry, not sorry.
So, I went to see The Force Awakens again, this time with a good friend. Even after seeing it five times, I was still glued to the screen…that is, I was until something jarred me from the movie and I looked over my shoulder. This was during the final lightsaber battle and I wasn’t very pleased about being distracted. I’m still not sure what is was (someone might have kicked my seat, or it could have been a noise) but I’m glad it happened. Whatever the cause, my attention was quickly arrested by the sight of a young boy, no more than six, sitting on his father’s lap. He was…the only word I can find is awestruck, in the oldest possible sense. His jaw slack, his eyes wide and almost unblinking, he just sat there drinking it all in.
I didn’t turn back to the screen. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the boy anymore than he could tear his eyes from the battle. Instead, I watched the lights wash across his face: red and blue dancing in perfect sync to the music. Flickering as red chased blue; flashing as blue struck back. Back and forth, mixing, separating, clashing again. Always two colors, each trying to shove the other off his face.
Until the end, when red sputtered out and blue alone remained, it’s triumphant light illuminating his awed face. The boy drew a deep breath–I think he’d forgotten to breathe during the battle.
Then he turned to his dad and whispered frantically: “Her friend’s gonna be okay, right?”
I turned back to the movie, but part of me lingered in that moment, still watching colored lights tell a story of good and evil on a child’s face.
On the drive home, I had the hardest time figuring out why this had affected me so strongly. It wasn’t just the fight, although I love to see an action scene tell a story of emotion. It wasn’t just seeing the pure awe of a child, although I love to see uncynical appreciation for a good story.
As it always happens, the pieces connected themselves into a whole right as I was about to fall asleep.
A few months ago, one of the priests in my church had taken a young boy around to all the stained glass windows, using them to tell the story of our faith. “Saints are the ones who let the light in,” she said. “That’s why we love stained glass so much.”
Watching that boy in the theater had been an inversion of watching the boy in the church. At church, the boy had moved from image to image, staring up earnestly as colored light poured them. In the theater, the boy had sat still, staring up in awe as colors reflected off the screen, as image after image moved before him.
Two expression, one theme. Two boys, the same awe.
Throughout history and across cultures, we’ve used colors and light to express abstract ideas. I’ve always loved stained glass windows and I’ve always loved movies. Before now, it had just never occurred to me to link the two; that a movie, at its very best, can be a rapid succession of stained glass windows.