Pride and sadness flooded Qui-Gon as he pictured Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi. He looked forward to the day that the two of them would work side by side as Jedi Knights, but with this thought no image came. Qui-Gon’s chest tightened. He was so proud of Obi-Wan’s path, of his achievements. Why couldn’t he see him as a Knight? Perhaps I do not want to see the boy grow up, he thought.
I love how everyone who tags this is always like #OMG WHEN HE TOUCHES OBI-WAN’S FACE OH NOOOOO (it’s okay, me too guys, me too…X)
More seriously, though – seeing this pop up on my dash again made me realize something that I’ve never really articulated before: that as far as I’m concerned, this little editorial/directorial/acting decision was the most important thing TPM ever did to characterize Qui-Gon. My whole interpretation of him as a character was defined by the half-second where he reaches up to touch his student’s face.
It seems silly, maybe, but I just see it as an example of how a tiny, seemingly insignificant thing can change the whole tenor of a scene, flip the scene’s meaning completely. Whenever I imagine this scene without that gesture, I know without a doubt that the omission of that simple, single touch would have changed my entire opinion of Qui-Gon’s character. Because even I have to admit, without that touch, this scene really does play like ‘dang, this guy really is oblivious and kind of terrible and wow really? really, you’re gonna use your last moments on earth for this, to ask your Padawan to basically give up his whole life for a project you were championing? ok then, wow…"
But. The way it was actually filmed, it’s not that. It’s not like that. The inclusion of one tiny, fleeting gesture turns this scene into something else, into something that isn’t about manipulation or insensitivity – into something that is about the wrenching conflict of duty and love; where duty is the cold reality that there is no time, that the Force is ringing everywhere with train the boy, a resounding call, louder than a bomb, and Qui-Gon is the only one listening, the one who has to see it done. The Force is howling YOU MUST, and so he must, he has to use this time this way – but Qui-Gon is still a rebel, and that small gesture, those fingers brushing against Obi-Wan’s face – that gesture is Qui-Gon’s last, wistful protest. Yes, he submits, yes, he concedes; yes, he will use his last moments to place a lifelong burden onto his Padawan’s already bowed and stricken shoulders, but not without this, not without this one connection, not without this brief touch, not without one aching moment to linger over all the things he will never get to see, on everything bright and beaming he knows Obi-Wan is going to become, on every brilliant and beautiful thing he knows Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi is going to accomplish. Even as unforgiving Duty tightens its grip, and Qui-Gon does what is required of him – still all he has is love, is regret, is oh, my child, is every single thing that Duty has mandated he not be able to say. Duty binds his tongue and it doesn’t matter – the words say anakin, but the gesture says obi-wan, says child of mine, says pride and wonder and longing and love and oh my god if you think I will ever be okay with this moment then you have been sadly misled.