Jareth's Greatest Hits

Jareth gets lots of general gushing from us (and good-natured ribbing about his pants), but we also have the serious love thing and respect for him. That's why we have this page: a compilation of our favorite Jareth moments.

Lounging in the Chamber

This is one of the best shots of Jareth in the whole movie. Whoever came up with this pose and for him to be in this mood, tapping his foot and looking at the clock, is a genius. He looks so pensive and unhappy, very sympathetic for a bad guy. It's such a change from his first scenes when he's all armored and aggressive. This is his everyday self, not an impassive villain, but full of uncertainties. What great acting that says more about him than he could ever tell us. It's a smart, nonverbal thing that works well for a script that doesn't always deliver on clarity.

"She's in the Oubliette."

We like this line read, and Bowie is usually flawless when it comes to dialog. But sometimes he'll be going along getting the job done, and then in the middle of a scene he'll suddenly knock something out of the park. And you're like, "Wow, look at him go! How come he's only a world-famous Rock God instead of a movie star??"

This is also great character stuff that he's monitoring her progress through the Labyrinth. This story works best when the characters are interactive like this and taking an interest; it loses something later on when these character connections are abandoned.

We're not sure what Jareth means when he says, "She should have given up by now." It could be related to his earlier, equally-cryptic comment, "Turn back before it's too late." You get the feeling that there's more consequences at stake than the film ever reveals.

"It's not fair !"

Another example of the Gentleman's best work, and some of the best entertainment in the film. It's the only time that Jareth makes direct contact with Sarah in the Labyrinth. He's mentally invested enough to get involved and go talk to her. Challenge her, taunt her. Even try to seduce her in the tantalizing way that Bowie does. His voice and body language, the way he steps around her and leans in - it's hot and sinister and affectionate, too - like they've got a relationship going now.

The last time they met was at the start of the film, on the hillside beyond the Labyrinth; his villainy was very rehearsed then. But in the darkness of the tunnels here, he's relaxed and full of himself, the real Jareth who is personable and enjoying the power of having Sarah trapped in his Labyrinth. (Note that he calls it "his" Labyrinth, when before it was "The" Labyrinth. Because this exchange is so intimate.)

Then there's this awesome bit:

"You say that so often. I wonder what your basis for comparison is."

Bowie puts layers on this line, making Jareth sound almost bitter. It's like self-commentary, as though his own life is more unfair than hers. But what is he upset about?

"It's Not Fair..."

1. Because he can't have what he wants either?
He wants Sarah and is going to ridiculous lengths for her affections, but she's still not interested.
Life does seem unfair when you're a spoiled king denied a prize, or when you're a lovesick guy with no better ideas on how to get your girl.

2. Because he's pissed off about his situation in general?
Is this why he seems bored and out-of-place as Goblin King? Because he was assigned to it unwillingly? Life is unfair because his tour of duty Underground is some kind of punishment from a higher authority? We'll never know, but Jareth does seem displeased about something in his life.

All kinds of stuff to wonder about, and from just a few words. Bowie is too good here - No one could do this better. And he looks so awesome; they lit him perfectly to convey the mood, in a contrast with the halo on the side and his face in darkness.

Just a glance

This is a tiny thing. No one else would ever notice it or care, but it's our favorite bit of editing on Jareth's footage. It occurs at 34:45. Hoggle has just told Jareth that he's going to lead Sarah back to the beginning of the Labyrinth. Most directors would cut straight to Sarah to get her reaction of betrayal, but Henson made sure to include this second of Jareth checking Sarah first. He glances up at her with some kind of look.

It could just be out of strategic concern because he doesn't want her to solve the Labyrinth, or it could be motivated by his obsesssion. A guy in love would be this interested in her reaction, would snap-to this quickly just to see her response to being betrayed. This shot was deliberately included to communicate that Jareth has some kind of intense interest in Sarah.

Who knows what it means for sure, but he's a lot more invested in her than he wants anyone to know. It's easy to sell passion in grand gestures and expensive sets, but sometimes the best of Jareth's secrets can be captured in a tiny flicker like this.

Every Girl's Fantasy

Our faves wouldn't be complete without this, some Enchanted Eve with the man of our dreams. In this case, he's the most dynamic and intriguing of superstars - David Bowie, in a beautiful collision with all of Jareth's charm and mysticism. Sarah is at the proper age to be curious, to want this and start experimenting; she gets here by eating a spiked peach, and this sequence has the hypnotic, swimming feel that mimics the real life experience.
This is the first dance with Him, the first time you really feel him, the jittery thrill of waiting and wondering on the first kiss, and all to the sway of Bowie's intoxicating voice. You're in some tingling haze, a combination of whatever booze or drugs, and the crazy, fluttering infatuation for a guy that no one in the world could resist, least of all Sarah.

But the designers have gone too far here. They've outsmarted the script, because this is too sublime. The conditions are just right, and Jareth is far too attractive and exciting. Sarah's leaving (to find a baby that she doesn't even like), is senseless on every level.

It's why we consider this simultaneously the best and worst of "Labyrinth."
This is the perfect, dreaming place that all girls know and want more than anything, reproduced with absolute finesse. The filmmakers seem to know that it's impossible to refuse, but then they suggest that a girl actually could.

For story purposes, Sarah had to be distracted from this sequence and reminded about her responsibility to find Toby. (Much as we'd rather stay here forever, we do have a movie plot to get back to.) But we think it should have been done with more respect to the intensity of this subject matter. She should have been totally wrapped up in Jareth, a quarter-inch away from the first kiss... And then the clock would chime and distract her. Instead, she seems uncertain about the whole thing from the beginning, is distracted by nothing at all, the chiming clock is an afterthought, and nobody knows what's going on in her head.

The Truth Comes Out

This is probably Jareth's best moment, when he decides to tell Sarah the truth, and we learn what's been motivating him all along. He doesn't care much about Toby - he loves Sarah and wants her to stay Underground. And he's been pretending to play the role of the villain. He adopted this character from the storybook that she was reading. Part of the characterization involves love, as even Sarah tells us:

"...The Goblin King had fallen in love with the girl, and he had given her certain powers."

But what is not part of the book is that Jareth has created the entire Labyrinth for her, done it all as a gesture for her affection. This is his Real Self, deviating from Sarah's imagination, which is why she doesn't get it, and doesn't know what he's talking about..
It means that Jareth isn't really The Goblin King (?) of the story, that maybe he's something else. Some external, magical entity that just happened to fall in love with her. He then noticed her obsession with the Labyrinth story, and used it as an avenue to win her heart.

So what is he really? Where did he come from, and how much of this adventure was just an illusion that he created for her? He considers his "Goblin King" generous and obliging. Does this mean he's really a worse villain? Or is he just frustrated with Sarah because she doesn't love him ?

"Labyrinth" is so deep and convoluted. It only hints at these other realms that provoke so many questions. Most of the mystery belongs to Jareth (whoever he really is), and this is why we love him.

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