A chance view of a photograph on one of the numerous channels of rubbish on my television was like being thrown unceremoniously into a wormhole and emerging in 1979 – at least momentarily.
For those of a certain age, (those who were teenagers in the late 1970’s) you will probably understand the feeling I’m describing. For others, you can’t understand the impact the Star Wars film had in that year. I can distinctly remember queuing for the ABC cinema in Swindon waiting to see this much hyped movie. I can also remember the feeling on leaving the film, that I – along with those who saw it with me in the cinema – had seen something revolutionary. There hadn’t been anything quite like it to that point.
Alec Guinness and Obi wan Kenobi
I recall seeing Alec Guinness playing Obi Wan Kenobi and seeing him as some eldery character. Although, to be fair, he was an actor who always appeared to be elderly even when watching films where he was in his thirties!
Of course as someone so young at the time, I had not idea of his actual age, nor how rapidly the sands of time run for all of us.
Equally, the remaining cast members were frozen in aspic as the characters they played. The only notable exception to this rule was Harrison Ford who aged gracefully through a range of film roles. His counterparts in the film kept a much lower profile in the following years which did nothing to break the enduring memory of them as they were in 1979.
The regular annual showing of the film at or around Christmas merely reinforced this belief. Even those significantly younger than me have no other points of reference for most of the actors who simply weren’t as prolific, successful or ever-present on our screens.
Luke Skywalker then and now
That made my sudden glimpse of Mark Hamill (the actor who played Luke Skywalker) all the more dramatic. In fact, by a strange twist of fate, he is the same age now (63) as Alec Guinness was when the original film was made.
I’m not entirely sure how this news made me feel, other than rapidly aging myself. However, I’ve since settled on the fact that age is merely a number. Rather like Oscar Wilde’s lines of settling on an age you feel comfortable with and sticking with it. Or, Lady Bracknell’s observation that there is sometimes a difference between ones actual age and that one admits to at dinner parties.
It also occurred to me how difficult it must be for actors and actresses (often delicate egos at the best of times) to be confronted with permanent reminders of their younger selves. I’m sure that isn’t something I would relish.
So, I will certainly see the latest Star Wars film (Star Wars VII) when it is released, although I think it will be less out of interest in the life of the Skywalkers and more out of a sense of nostalgia and a chance to recapture that feeling last felt at the ABC Swindon.
So, it’s often the surprising and unexpected situations that have most impact on you (certainly speaking for myself). Glimpsing a photograph has allowed me to revisit my childhood and in part re-evaluate the present. May the force be with you !