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The Most Romantic Ad-lib in Cinematic History

February 14, 2014 |  by  |  Featured, Movies

“I know.” Two words, famously ad-libbed by Harrison Ford after many repeated takes of the scripted “I love you too” line. Two words that evoke love far more powerfully than any hallmarkian sentiment in this or any other galaxy. In all of cinema, in all its rich and romantic history, “I know” is certainly the most romantic ad-lib. And in my estimation, “I know” is high among the most romantic lines, full stop.

From Leia’s perspective, Solo’s pursuit had seemed not motivated by love, but perhaps by a mere desire for conquest.

It is in one of the darkest moments of The Empire Strikes Back, in all of the Star Wars franchise really, when Han Solo replies with those two little words to Leia’s tearful and frighted admission of “I love you.” And in that moment we witness a breaking of character. Not merely the breaking of the fourth wall by Ford with his ad-lib, but the abandonment of a mask behind which Solo had been hiding for so long.

At first blush, it might sound in-character for Solo. Another in a long line of the snappy repartee that had characterized his and Leia’s relationship. But it was more than that. His was a naked and vulnerable return of her statement of love.

Up to that point their relationship had been adversarial, full of romantic friction. Solo had been pressing his suit with Leia, but in a ‘scruffy’ sort of way, the way a scoundrel would. From Leia’s perspective, Solo’s pursuit had seemed not motivated by love, but perhaps by a mere desire for conquest.

Leia had been rebuffing his passes, uninterested in a shallow relationship. But all the while she obviously has feelings for Solo (see the scene on the Falcon in the worm/cave when they kiss for the first time).

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I'm "nice men".

But when the shit hits the fan big-time in Cloud City, when there’s no more time for messing around with unimportant matters, Leia abandons all pretexts. It’s likely to be her last time ever seeing Han, and she’s filled with sadness and regret. She needs to tell him that she does truly love him.

Solo, whose cad-like behaviour was as much a pretext to cover his own true love as Leia’s protests had been, who had been enjoying the ‘game’ of fencing back and forth with Leia, and who is about to be lowered to his almost certain death (whether from the carbonite or from what awaits him on the other side of the hibernation), looks back at Leia after her expression of love, and says, “I know.”

Two little words. And in that moment, he’s not just acknowledging that Leia loves him, but that he has known for some time. He’s acknowledging that he has been in love with her too, and that the game they’ve been playing isn’t necessary any longer.

Solo isn’t being cool as he’s about to meet his fate. Instead he is abandoning those childishly status-consious defense mechanisms, the ‘protections’ that he has always wrapped himself with. Those same ‘protections’ that have prevented him from ever truly connecting with another person on a deep level. In his most desperate hour, Solo at once makes himself completely vulnerable by surrendering himself to love, and also draws upon the immeasurable strength of love in order to face his fate.

Such is the magic of love, it can provide strength beyond imagining, but only to those who open themselves wholly to the vulnerability of unrequited love and to the unbearable pain of true love lost.    

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