SPOILERS. Attention, my good human, this has spoilers!!
The scene in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” where Rey gets slurped into Jedi island’s dark pit and spit up into a cave is what is known as the most defining, self-shattering oh-shit moment for a character. Or rather, it’s a focal point of every three-dimensional character. And as real life characters, we’re all familiar with it because we’ve either experienced it or we dread the experience of it, and do what we can to tiptoe around it. It’s when you reach that cockroach-shelled, lowly low place and come face to face with all your selves.
Rey pulls herself from a pool of water and onto a rocky platform and is faced with an image—her own reflection. Except there are many different Reys. Hundreds of her. She snaps her finger, and an entire army of her snaps her fingers. It seems like the snap’s echo will continue for forever. But Rey is convinced there isn’t a forever, she later tells Kylo, when their souls are paired together, before they touch hands. She believes she can see the end (or the beginning) of her reflection. She does see an end. And at the end of her reflections, there’s a frozen wall. She wants to see her parents. Behind the wall, there’s a hazy movement of what looks like two people that morph into one. When the image comes into focus, we see what Rey sees; it’s another version of herself. Not her parents. Not the answers she seeks.
Rey describes this experience as the most “alone” she has ever felt. As someone who plunged herself into the darkness for answers, one can understand the draw of sharing this with Kylo. He himself is as severed as she is, and there is comfort in that. His face has a jagged slit down the middle. They are both coming to terms with themselves, their power, and the balance they possess if they can focus their energies.
About a month ago, I saw this piece of art at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts called “Endlessly Repeating Twentieth Century Modernism,” by American artist Josiah McElheny. It reminds me of the repetitive Rey effect. On first glance, it’s a glass case with four objects—a decanter, a vase, a box, and a bottle. But then if you look past each object in the mirrors behind it, you’re presented with a seemingly endless arsenal of decanters, vases, boxes, and bottles.
Along with the main photo, these are a few pictures that I took myself:
The piece attempts to embody the “capitalist notion that all objects are eternally repeatable, that everything can be remanufactured endlessly without regard to era, geography, or culture.”
I was enamored with and haunted by this concept. The visual effect is trance-like. There’s a satisfying hum about it. The roundness of the objects, the shininess. The endlessness. But the longer you look at it, the more you want to find a beginning or end to it. It becomes exhausting. Because there isn’t exactly one.
This can be said about ideas too, that nothing is ever truly original, which many people in the history of the world have discovered and have said in different ways.
We could spend a longer time talking about capitalism here (and we could even get personal about the tight Disney grasp on creation and production), but I will keep this short for the purposes of this review. I know enough about a product to say even after all its updates and versions, it is still another version of the last one, an endless, unoriginal cycle.
It sounds kind of hollow when you pit the never-ending manufacture of objects next to self-awareness and understanding. It is that very repetition of looking, staring directly at your own production of images and never around it, when things begin to feel so isolating.
Ironically, Kylo and Rey need each other at this point in time, to see outside and around themselves. They’re so immersed in their own selves that only by connecting with someone as conflicted, can they separate the pieces.
Rey longs to know her past. Kylo wants to destroy his. When he finally tells her the truth about her parents, he comes from this place of destruction. “They were nobodies” who sold her into nothingness. And Rey is back in the pit again, staring into all her reflections, scraping at the frozen wall for her parents, but is faced with another copy of herself. This is where Kylo tries to make himself her savior. Like he’s the only one who knows that she’s someone outside these copies of copies.
Ironically though again, Kylo frees Rey when he calls her a nobody.
One of the biggest takeaways for me: be wary of the person who tells you to destroy your past, or cut yourself off from it (as Luke does initially), especially if it’s a painful one filled with lessons for your present and future selves.
When Rey can accept that she’s a “nobody,” that nobodies can align together for something outside their own reflections, she can become the somebody she has been all along.