Literature’s most famous balcony scene belongs, of course, to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Centuries of scholars and school students have pored over its meanings, readings and implications, loading the scene with a depth and power that still resonates today. Among these many interpretations, the one that stands out for this writer is that the balcony offers a physical space attached to yet apart from the Capulet homestead where Juliet exists both inside and out. From here she can be admired and adored by Romeo. Other readings point to this scene as evidence of the lovestruck duo’s recklessness, that wild abandon of youth that, ultimately, leads to their demise.
Both readings have a basis in the Star Wars saga, where a balcony scene between Padmé and Anakin in Revenge of the Sith (ROTS) ultimately seals the pair’s fate. Though they don’t perform the parts of Romeo and Juliet, there are similarities. Padmé is a former queen turned senator serving the Galactic Republic, whose laws and values are upheld by the Jedi, of which Anakin is a part. Although sex is permissible for these warrior monks, attachment is forbidden. Yet the prequel trilogy weaves a story of star crossed lovers, one doomed for tragedy.
In ROTS, Anakin watches Padmé as she stands on the balcony of her plush Coruscant apartment. On the surface, this scene exhibits the extent of Anakin’s love for his wife and, crucially, conveys that there is no depth too dark he wouldn’t fall for her. He is enraptured by her, consumed and obsessed. It sows one of many important seeds that ultimately bloom into the rotten bouquet of Darth Vader. Yet digging deeper, the scene has a lot more going on than it would first appear.
Anakin is stood on the threshold between the apartment and the balcony. In this way he isn’t out with Padmé in the open, in reference to the secrecy surrounding their illicit relationship. It also represents a metaphoric threshold, a key point in his life that will alter the course of his destiny.
Padmé stands out in front, brushing her hair and staring wistfully out at the busy Coruscant skyline. Anakin stands behind her, she in white and he in black as though her shadow. Particular attention should be paid here to the costumes. Padmé is portrayed as bright, light and pure. There are strings of pearls at her shoulders, the swell of her pregnant belly is visible. Anakin, by contrast, is dressed in his black Jedi robes signifying the oath he took to the Order, while the colour and design conjure immediately his inner struggle and Vader’s suit which would become his prison.
It’s interesting to note that while Anakin and Padmé talk to one another in this scene, they never touch, speaking to the growing divide between them and the coming dark that will force them apart. It beautifully foreshadows one of Revenge of the Sith’s key dramatic moments, where a conflicted Anakin stares out the window of the Jedi Council chamber while Padmé does the same from her apartment. This before his fall.
The balcony is present at important moments across the entire saga. In The Phantom Menace, Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan discuss the fate of a young Anakin Skywalker. Later, in Attack of the Clones, Count Dooku watches the bungled execution of Padmé, Anakin and Obi-Wan from a balcony. Anakin and Padmé share their first kiss and later marry on a beautiful balcony on Naboo. Palpatine watches as proto-Star Destroyers filled with Clone Troopers ascend to battle the droid armies across the galaxy. Having killed the Separatist leaders on Mustafar, Anakin stands on a balcony over the scalding lava seas and weeps. Bail Organa presents a baby Leia to his wife who sits on a balcony overlooking the stunning backdrop of Alderaan. Most recently, Finn and Rose watch the double standards and hidden cruelty on Canto Bight in The Last Jedi.
The physical space offered by balconies, being a part of and separate from a building, offers a narrative tool to explore divisions between characters. In all of the above examples, and others that Star Wars has to offer, characters are at moments of conflict, doubt or change.