Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: “Dinner Conversation”

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The scene where Anakin gathers his new friends–all of which play a part in his eventual fate–around the table with his mother is a quiet one with only Jar Jar as the “visual effect.” No big battles or swelling themes from John Williams. Yet it is this kind of scene that I think Lucas does extremely well, and he usually doesn’t get too much credit for it. It grounds his universe in a sense of normalcy, which serves to further flesh out the characters and make them more relatable, because they do something simple that all of us in the audience do all of the time.

Yet the simplicity belies the fact there is a lot happening in that scene. It establishes Anakin and Shmi as poor but generous people. Not even slavery is an excuse not to provide hospitality and kindness to others. It establishes Qui-Gon and Padmé as the kind of people who accept that hospitality without complaint; a queen and a Jedi based out of Coruscant have experienced a lot more posh settings than a backwater slave hovel.

The conversation is lightened up with the childlike Jar Jar greedily and obnoxiously slurping food off of the table and Qui-Gon grabbing his tongue, gently telling him not to do that again. He also kids with Anakin about the lightsaber Anakin had seen on Qui-Gon’s belt earlier. “No one can kill a Jedi,” Anakin says, his words heavy with irony because he’ll end up killing lots of them. It’s at this point Anakin’s destiny opens up for him. This is Anakin’s first contact with the Order that will become his life for the next decade or so and the means by which he will meet Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon then starts to realize this is more than just a nice kid, particularly when he offers his services as a novice pod racer to help his new friends get the parts they need for their ship. No human being has the reflexes to handle a pod racer, so it’s at this point Qui-Gon pays close attention to Anakin. Qui-Gon doesn’t seem to be too worried once Shmi gives the okay, in spite of Padmé’s misgivings.

The conversation also raises the stakes for the pod race. More than parts are at stake in the race; Anakin’s freedom is at well since the scene establishes why Anakin and Shmi don’t just run away.

I thought the rhythm of the scene worked really well, with the actors playing nicely off of each other. It’s not overacted and it’s very naturalistic.

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4 Responses to “Great Scenes of the Prequel Trilogy: “Dinner Conversation””

  1. Adam D. Bram (The Nilbog) Says:

    One of my favorite scenes.

  2. lovelucas Says:

    I’ve always felt this is one of Jake’s strongest scenes – from the sly,knowing (laser sword) to the animated child that he is – (explaining how slaves can be blown up by a hidden device in their body) to the really poignant reminder to Shmi that she had said the problem in the world is people not helping people. Pernilla is wonderful all the way through and Liam – I love how he says two words -”very dangerous” but also how he initially tries to evade Anakin’s persistence that he’s a Jedi…trying, but not too hard. It’s like he already knows the very special discovery he’s made. Fantastic writing LP – I’ve saved all of these, waiting until I could really think about what you’ve written. Please keep this going indefinitely. And yes, kudos to George for this quiet gathering.

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