I am personally really glad that Rian Johnson’s recent comments about Kylo Ren, the complexity of villainy, and the importance of redemption are getting a certain demographic of people to leave this fandom.
Lighting in The Last Jedi trailer and that scene we are all talking about.
Like many of you that last bit of the trailer had me screaming at the tv. After the initial freak out phase had passed, I began to slowly shift into the what if phase, meaning– are they baiting me? Now there are several theories out there about who Kylo is holding his hand out too. Some say its Leia and not Rey. What if I told you the proof is in the shot itself?
I am about to give you a quick lesson in lighting, visual storytelling, and cinematography.
Let’s go back to The Force Awakens as a reference guide. The lighting on Starkiller base bridge you know that scene where he kills his dad?
Lighting was something they made sure to get right in this scene. Notice how Kylo’s face is half hidden in shadow and the other in light. Signifying his split.
JJ says this “ And you see the light go away. And now they’re in this darkness. And darkness takes over.”
The play with light was even more apparent when Kylo and Rey face off against the edge of the cliff.
Now I’m about to throw some cited literary sources about Film and Lighting just so it’s importance is established.
“In visual storytelling, few elements are as effective and as powerful as light and color. They have the ability to reach the viewers at a purely emotional gut level”(Brown, 2012, p. 8).
Light becomes mood that gives its tone to a film. It calls upon our memory to react to physical phenomena such as cold, rain, fog, sun, or dryness, and come up with psychological equivalents such as annoyance, sadness, mystery, fear, anguish, comfort, joy, gaiety, etc. As these effects produce immediate impressions in viewers, the cinematographer is able to obtain psychological reactions out of mere technical means (Geuens, 2000, p. 153).
Architecture and Film both use perceptual psychology to get people to see spaces in a certain way. Architecture lighting designers skillfully illuminate buildings and rooms with psychological intentions.
Lighting designers think about a psychological response and how behavior is affected by lighting. Some examples are:
1. Visibility of vertical and horizontal junctions aids orientation.
2. People follow the brightest path.
3. Brightness can focus attention.
4. Facing wall luminance is a preference.
5. Lighting can affect body position (Ginthner, accessed April, 2013 p.2).
Just as lighting designers light spaces to stimulate human mood and behavior, Cinematographers light the space inside a movie frame with the intent to persuade a viewer’s perception. The way objects are lit in the frame will focus the viewer’s attention, the amount of shadows cast will limit perception, and changing lights can indicate a change in a character or opportunity (Brown, 2012).
However, unlike film, architecture has had a psychological study on how different light in a physical space effect human arousal, concentration, memory, work productivity, and Mood.
If you take any type of filmmaking class, this is one of the first things you learn. Nothing is a mistake in these films everything is as designed to serve a purpose.
So let’s dive into the scene in question.
First of all, let us talk about how these two shots are framed. They are close up only showing the faces of our characters.
Close up shots typically contain just the face and shoulders of a subject, with a little headroom above. This prevents ‘floating head syndrome’ as the shoulders suggest to the brain that there is a body below! These shots are the most common of all as they can convey a real sense of emotion and help the audience to connect with the subject.
Second, let’s talk about the choice of lighting.
They are both in a warm fiery glow.
You can judge the quality of light in a film scene through the hardness or softness of its shadows. Hard quality light has dark shadows with sharp edges and often feels more raw than soft quality light. Soft lighting, often used in older films, has lighter, diffused shadows and tends to feel more sentimental.
And with advances in film technology, sharp shadows can also be quite romantic. Case in point, this still from the end of the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice:
Third, let’s talk color
Color temperature is one of the first things to note when studying the lighting in a romantic scene. Is it orange? Bluish? White? Most often, warm colors add to an inviting, romantic atmosphere. For example, the warm light in the sunset scene in Titanic draws the audience in, unlike the cold, blue lighting later in the movie, after things get dire.
Forth let’s talk context.
This is not the same scene with Kylo. Rey is still wearing her resistance clothing. This is the beginning of the film.
The context matters especially in this scene where Rey is talking about needing someone to show her where she belongs. Is this romantic? The answer is, no. Is it intimate? Yes. The scene can be set up this way without any romantic implications. But it is definitely meant to be intimate. Rey is vulnerable at this moment and is speaking from her heart to Luke. Please show me what to do with myself.
Now let’s move to Kylo’s scene which is no doubt at the end of the movie (because his scar is healed.)
Our big bad villain is bathed in nearly the exact same lighting and color as Rey’s shot, even the framing is the same. In no other shot ever has Kylo Ren been depicted in these colors. Not in the teaser and not in TFA. Kylo is always in red or dark. The context of this shot is very very important. He is reaching out palm up as to take someone’s hand. He does this slow and gentle. His face is soft with what I would say a plea.
Yes, this is a call back to Darth Vader asking Luke to join him on the Darkside in Empire Strikes Back. But if you go back and watch that scene it is intimately framed (remember context matters), but the colors are pale. Lukes’ face is in agony. Vader extends his hand it’s rigid and forced.
Before I get into more examples, I want to point out that yes trailers are meant to give you an idea, and intrigue you but they are also meant to misdirect.
Trailer Misdirects/Visual Storytelling and Dialogue
The misdirect of this scene is to make you believe Rey might join the dark side with Kylo or at least first glance. General Audience viewers casual fans who do not give it any second deep thought will accept this and move on. However, more dedicated fans will step in and try to dissect the scene by looking at the image and not the overall meaning behind everything we discussed above. The trailer isn’t designed to give anything away. Which leads me to say this is very smart editing on Rian’s behalf. While it doesn’t give us the answer of will, she or won’t she? It provides us with the question that we will inevitably discuss in length until the movie is released.
I would also like to point out there is a visual storytelling aspect of this trailer when it comes to the dialogue.
One example of this not related to the scene in question comes from Poe Dameron. He states “We have the spark that will ignite the fire to bring the First Order down.” The next scene we get is Finn. It is pretty clear that bit of dialogue was meant for Finn. He will no doubt help bring the FO down as other Stormtroopers defect as he did. Finn is that spark for the rebellion. Now let’s talk about the Rey/Kylo scene. The same thing happens here. Her dialogue coincides with the next shot of Kylo. Also, notice (scroll up if you need to) how their faces are opposite each other Rey is looking slightly to our left while Kylo is looking slightly to the right. Their positions are mirrored which is a recurring theme in the TFA (see the snow fight). This is beautiful visual storytelling. TFA was full of the same imagery lighting and storytelling. I have a post about it HERE
I went through and found scenes that mimic that of what we saw in the trailer, down to color, lighting, and frame. I also chose male and female characters. Guess what, all of them were romantic.
I chose this because of the flares in the background and the close-up framing of their faces. Notice yes the color is blue because they are parting (remember CONTEXT).
Next, we have a scene from Pride and Prejudice, but beyond the romance aspect, I want you to watch the light change of this scene. Elizabeth is bathed in blue until she accepts Darcy, taking his hand. The sunlight beams between them warming the scene. Skip to 3:10
Here is an oldie but a goody. I chose this due to the color. Now remember this film is old, lighting techniques have come a long way since the 1930s, but their choice of color is important, along with the shadows on their faces.
Ah, Jon and Dany. This is very romantic (even tho its incest lol) But take a look at the lighting between them also this part is (NSFW) if you are gonna watch till the end. You were warned.
And now for the grand finale TFA cliff scene. Oh, I chose this little diddy to drive home a point. Kylo and Reys’ faces are framed intimately (which signified they would have a more profound connection later and at that moment they were finding the Force together) But also notice their faces are bathed in mostly pale colors due to it being cold. Yes, the lightsabers flicker red and blue onto them. Yes, that holds meaning as well, the fight between the dark and the light. But the overall pallet is pale frigid colors. Also, the context -- there’s that word again– of this scene is they are enemies fighting. Kylo does want to teach her, but he’s aggressive and forceful, to say the least. It is a stark contrast to what we see in TLJ trailer. Where he is calm relaxed and in warm, inviting lighting. No aggressive posture, no forceful plea.
If you want to contrast another couple, please refer to Pride and Prejudice again. I can’t upload it here, but this is thelink. This is where Darcy says he loves Elizabeth, but she rejects him. They have close-ups, but the color and lighting are not intimate. Its pale lighter and blue. All things that are associated with sadness rejection etc. You get the point.
So in conclusion. It is my opinion based on all information gathered on cinematography, that yes the relationship between Kylo Ren or perhaps Ben Solo at this point has drastically changed. It is no longer one of animosity or hate. Judging by the warm colors, and the soft shadows and above all else the context of the gesture/posture/facial expression of Ben it is romantic or at the very least (for the skeptics) a special relationship– Remember Rey and Ben are similar in Force power according to Luke- this gives them a bridge to each other one that will take them to understanding and COMPASSION. I am not saying they kiss, I am not saying they are a couple at the end of this movie. I am saying that it’s possible that it will move in this direction. They no longer hate each other. How did we get to this point? Well, we have a whole Act 1 and 2 to get through for that answer.
I will stress that I believe that yes Ben/Kylo is holding his hand out to Rey. And no, it is not out of malice or deception. He is not asking her to join him on the Darkside… He is asking her to go with him and for acceptance.
I made a follow-up post to this because this was so long! Please click here to see more examples and extra information
Freaking out just a little… Adam Driver’s Wikipedia page’s filmography listing. Notice for Star Wars: The Force Awakens he is listed as playing Kylo Ren, as opposed to Star Wars: The Last Jedi he is listed as playing Kylo Ren/Ben. BEN, BEN, BEN. Holy freaking hell. Okay, deep breaths. Could mean nothing. THE HELL IT DOESN’T. 🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗
Adam’s statement of Kylo’s fate has me pondering all the time, but I always end up at the exact same spot.
KyloRen: Your son is gone! He was weak and foolish like his father, so I destroyed him.
Han: That’s what Snoke wants you to believe. My son is alive.
If you think about it…Adam was specifically asked if KYLO would live another day at the end of The Last Jedi. And then we get the statement from Kylo in the trailer: Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. It’s the only way to become who you were meant to be.
Ben becomes Kylo Ren the moment he puts on his mask because that’s the role he has to play to keep Ben Solo hidden. He was never meant to be Kylo Ren. So what could Adam’s statement possibly mean?
The death of Kylo Ren…
…and reborn as Ben Solo.
Because KyloRen and BenSolo are two VERY different people.
Me before encountering anti Kylo bs on my dash:
Kylo Ren is a highly complex character and will most likely only grow in complexity as the trilogy goes on. We don't yet know much about his motivations for doing the terrible things he does, but the fact stands that he has gone too far down the dark path to come back without significant effort and suffering on his part. He can still find redemption, but it's extremely unlikely that he will have a traditionally happy ending the way many fans want him to. Even though he was manipulated by Snoke, many of his choices were still his own and the narrative as well as the audience will demand retribution for that.
Me after encountering anti Kylo bs on my dash:
Wow I can't wait for the final shot of Episode IX to be Kylo Ren smiling as he's engulfed in a group hug from his polyamorous life partners Rey, Finn, and Poe, while the baby ewoks they've adopted dance around their feet and the two previous Trios all smile down on them from above
We know that Kyber Crystals Bleed if they are bent to the will of a Darkside user. Kylo is not all dark nor all light. I am willing to bet money Ben’s crystal was once all yellow.
Adam driver even said the crystal is unstable just like Kylo. It’s a metaphor.
What if his crystal split in his original lightsaber prompting him to build a new one with the vents to help stabilize his kyber. Just as he would need to build a new identity for himself as Kylo Ren, crude and unfinished.
What is more important about the color yellow is that it was primarily used for the Jedi Temple Guards. Couple that with Kylo’s knight like design you get a man on a crusade. A Knight who right now has been corrupted in his duty.
Ashoka purified her blades to white after taking them from a dark side user. Could Ben’s return to yellow in the end if he is redeemed and stabilize? This would be a beautiful choice of visual storytelling if they go this route. It matches his cross guard hilt perfectly. I hope so I want his to be yellow.
PS Yes I realize that the script could have just been describing the color to show its fiery nature but if they weren’t that’s a huge clue. Fun speculation though.
I love Kylo Ren. I love that even though he’s been targeted, tortured, manipulated, and neglected since birth he still holds light inside of him. I love that his mistakes force him (through deserved suffering) to realize that light can’t be extinguished, it must be embraced. I love that his mother won’t give up on him; that she acknowledges he fucked up repeatedly but realizes the snowball effect of childhood trauma that led him down the dark path. I love the message of a damaged person who’s wronged others can still change and become a better person that affects others positively.
I love Rey. I love that even though she’s been completely abandoned by her family, she still develops her own morals and evolved into a compassionate, brave, resourceful woman. I love that even though her sudden development of Force abilities and the realization that she could help save the galaxy terrify her, she decides that her mission is bigger than waiting around for those who left her. That she’s important on her own, regardless of her abandonment.
I love that their compassion for each other could save them both. I love that they both seek belonging, and that they can find it in each other as they grow. I love that Rey could inspire Ben to redeem himself, to change and accept responsibility for his actions; that she could teach him how to embrace his light despite his past. I love that Ben could give Rey understanding and support, that he could strengthen her light and help harness her darkness. I love that they share a connection of scarred childhoods, but that together they could change their futures. I love that their path won’t be easy, but that they can find balance together.
And I love this Reylo family. I love the meta, the fanfics, the art, the memes, and the support we give one another. I wouldn’t trade this fandom for anything.