Friday, August 11, 2017

Luke & Rey: Star Wars The Last Jedi

It's anticipated to be the biggest film of 2017, so no details are being released--and hardly any images--so when something like this still is released, it's basically being treated like a golden nugget. Is the image that good? It's pretty good, there is certainly information there we can pan to get to the good stuff, so let's put our noses to the grindstones and see what we come up with.
Rey wears a gray, formless cloak; why? Gray is the color of ashes, so it symbolizes both penance (from dust we came, to dust we shall return, let me do penance for my sins by pouring dust and ashes all over myself as a sign of humility) and the color of the pilgrim, because pilgrims would often go on a journey in penance and to seek after greater holiness. The site they are at, Skellig Michael (which we discuss more below) is a holy site--in reality and the Jedi universe--so the idea of a pilgrimage is suiting. Why is it so formless? What do we really know about Rey? Costumes are meant to communicate to the viewer about the character, but the film makers are keeping Rey "under wraps" (like the wrap she wears) so we aren't going to be allowed to know much about her, at least at this point.
What about her staff? The staff, or rod, is a sign of strength: not only strength because she has been disciplined by the rod--think of how hard life was for her at the junkyard settlement on Jakku; so life has disciplined her, but that discipline has become her strength, it makes her less vulnerable and less afraid ("less afraid" is carefully chosen, in spite of what you may think of my writing skills :)  she's still afraid, quite afraid, but she's all ready been through so much, she knows she is also tough). Unlike Kylo Ren (Han and Leia's son) Rey hasn't been pampered and given ego boosts, telling her she's going to be a great Jedi someday, knowing that her uncle and mother are galactic royalty and her father and his wookie heroes of the Resistance,... Rey has grown up, literally, in the desert, so the desert we see in the image above (rocks and salt water) is a comfortable and familiar surrounding; she isn't going to need a babysitter the way Kylo Ren obviously did.
Rey's hairstyle is quite interesting,... even bizarre. Completely pulled back, that suggests discipline, again, she is disciplining herself in her thoughts: she's not going to gush to Luke, "You are my hero! You are the greatest legend EVER! Can I have your autograph?!!? What about a selfie?!!" There are three "pony tails" (in spite of a better description) and, given that this is such a holy site, I would suggest the hair being parted into threes is a sign of her thoughts of God (Holy Trinity) and she realizes how important this temple is and she wants to make the most of it. In other words, she's not just her for the Resistance, for the galaxy, but she's also here for Rey. Now, look behind Rey: it's like a stone bench, which is probably what it is, but it also looks like a bridge, very much like the stone bridge we see The Mage on when she and Arthur discuss what he holds back and why he can't use Excalibur in King Arthur: Legend Of the Sword and, given that the lightsaber is also a sword, this connection isn't out of the question In other words, Rey acts as a bridge for Luke to go from exile to the forefront of the Resistance once more. The problem with bridges, people walk over them, and this suggests that Rey's relationship with Han is going to look cozy and warm compared to her relationship with Luke.
Look to Rey's left and, from our perspective, behind her: on our left there is green and growth (life and new hope) and on our right there is rocks and barrenness; this is utilizing the landscape to illustrate what we find in these two characters. Rey is young and full of hope, but Luke is old, craggy and barren. Whereas Ben Kenobi had stayed on Tatooine to watch the progress of Luke, and made use of the desert for his own personal growth and advancement as the years passed, Luke choose this barren planet to escape responsibility and probably even blame, so Luke's heart has hardened, however, with Rey, she is what Luke needs to become that Jedi hero once more: hope.
Perhaps the most important, fundamental element of this image is that Rey (Daisy Ridley) stands opposite of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). This is the first time in approximately 30 years that Luke has encountered another human (there are some aliens on the island, we'll look at them in a moment). So, for Luke, we can say that looking at Rey is like looking in a mirror: in Martin Buber's theory of I and Thou, we require other humans, not only to know ourselves, but God as well. So what do we see Luke doing? He's standing at the threshold. While we know events in the film progress, understanding this moment, and the moment at the closing of Star Wars: the Force Awakens when Rey approaches Luke and holds out his lightsaber to him, we also don't know what has happened to the galactic hero in those 30 years, and these few moments of intense communication--verbally and physically--is what the film makers will use to describe a character we know, but don't know who he has become.
Skellig Michael is dedicated to the Archangel St. Michael, whose name means, "Who can compare to God?" It's fitting, therefore, that Luke would retreat to such a place, as he is, very much, like St. Michael and his nephew, Kylo Ren, like Satan: so favored but who fell so low. Why was this such a good place for monks dedicating their lives to holiness? This is one of the great paradoxes in Christianity: we are meant to become "living stones," but we can also let our hearts become "hardened" with sin to where our hearts are no longer natural, but like stone... so how do we manage to become the living stones? To be a living stone means you are rock solid in your foundation of beliefs: you are solid in believing in the importance of love, for example, and you are advanced in practicing patience. A "living stone" is not going to chip easily when the world turns hard on you and makes your journey difficult. On the other hand, we harden our hearts against love and relationships when we have been hurt, and don't want to suffer anymore; then our hearts slowly become filled with poison which causes our hearts to die. Rocks also have a tendency to symbolize sin for this very reason of "hardening our hearts" against God and our fellow man. For someone training in holiness, however, the rocks can become a symbol of how to be tough, dedicated and purge yourself of softness which might cause an aversion to discipline (like sleeping in, or skipping prayers, not fasting or staying comfortable instead of mortifying the flesh). So, just as the Force symbolizes balance in the universe, we can see how delicate the balance within our own souls can be. 
We do know, however, that it could not have been a very pleasant journey: Luke is surrounded by stones, and this suggests that, the son of Anakin Skywalker, has let his heart turn to stone as well. Why? We're probably not going to find that out, or just get a tasting of it, but the giant rock we have seen as Luke's home is a reversal of "wise and healthy living": Luke should have been there to be Leia's rock in her times of hardship, and Luke should have let Leia be a rock for him in his own times of trouble; in other words, instead of running away when Kylo Ren turned, Luke should have stood and either fought his nephew, or at least been there to help Leia lead the Resistance against the First Order. Instead, Luke has become a rock, and this is likely going to be very difficult for Rey to manage.
This has been released as the "nuns" who care for the Jedi Temples on the island where Luke resides; according to sources, they don't really like Luke being there. They can communicate with him to some degree, but they wish he would go away. This seems utterly bizarre to me, and I simply don't know what to make of this.
Skellig Michael was a monastery, but it was also a community, so even though the monks there lived in a kind of hermitage, they had the socialization of others, they weren't alone, and this is true even today of the religious life; why? Because being cut-off from you fellow man mangles your outlook. As we have said before, it's good to go into the desert to fight your demons, because there is no place for the demons to hide; sometimes, however, the demons win, especially if the person is going through depression (like the loss of his nephew to the Dark Side) or is prone to depression: you can't see reality properly without guidance, and if this has happened to Luke, it will be difficult for him to come back to the Resistance and fight.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner