April 6, 2016

Rey Solo: How J.J. Abrams Frames Isolation in 'The Force Awakens'

A new video essay explores the visual elements and framing used to show the isolation and loneliness of Rey in The Force Awakens.

Kasper Møller Jensen's video essay will be useful to you as a filmmaker, but if you haven't seen Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens yet, please don't watch the below video, or even read this article. There are major spoilers ahead

NOTE: This video has since been deleted by its owner.

Rey is arguably the strongest character J.J. Abrams gave us in his update on the storied Star Wars franchise, but there is more that went into building the tremendous spirit of independence in this future Jedi than first meets the eye.

Rey is comfortable taking on the universe alone.

Daisey Ridley was an inspired choice in casting, as she was able to provide Rey with a blend of strength, humor, and vulnerability entirely unnatural for most first-timers, especially within the pressure-laden confines of a film destined for astronomical levels of fanboy scrutiny. In the video essay, you can see just how much attention to detail J.J. Abrams and cinematographer Dan Mindel give this character through framing choices alone.

In every one of the shots highlighted, Rey is given the entire side of a screen to occupy by herself. She is placed in environments where she appears minuscule in comparison to the behemoth structures and ruins of the Galactic Empire behind her. The takeaway: she is comfortable taking on the universe alone.

Rey's strength and independence is born out of decades of isolation and abandonment, and Abrams goes the whole nine yards in making sure the audience is well aware of her plight. These are traits she has in common with another few members of the famed Jedi order... who also grew up alone on a desert planet... and who also lost their parents to some sort of terrible accident. In fact, it seems at times that Abrams has pulled a George Lucas and digitally removed Luke or Anakin Skywalker from a two-sunned Tatooine landscape, replacing them with Rey instead.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens is out now on Blu-Ray, DVD, and digital on demand. Look out for our upcoming rundown of the best behind-the-scenes features and deleted scenes.      

Your Comment

21 Comments

Why there is "Rey Solo" in the title? There is no clear evidence that she is Han Solo's daughter.

April 6, 2016 at 4:48PM

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Andy Tokarski
Director, Editor, Colorist
1059

Yeah, what's up with that?

April 6, 2016 at 5:08PM

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it's a pun

April 6, 2016 at 5:23PM, Edited April 6, 5:23PM

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The video points out the aesthetic of isolation wrt Rey--i.e. showing her "solo," alone. So NFS was just making a joke that plays off internet rumors about Rey's lineage.

April 6, 2016 at 5:41PM, Edited April 6, 5:41PM

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Michael
74

You could draw a dashed line down the middle of any ad or even Call of Duty gameplay footage and find something compelling...

I don't think this essay had anything interesting to say.

April 6, 2016 at 5:25PM

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Exactly, I mean of course there is a certain level of intention by framing her on one side of the frame, however I wouldn't take it as a rule for the film itself or even a fully conscious decision with a deeper meaning.

April 6, 2016 at 5:43PM

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Andres Gonzalez
Aspiring Storyteller
158

I have to say that I don't expect there to be much of anything interesting to say about the making of this film. I know I'm part of the minority, and I've held back posting anything about it because so many people seem to hold it close to their hearts, but I found it very uninspiring, and didn't feel the love. I apologize to anyone who feels differently, and would welcome any points that would convince me otherwise.

I'm giving Abrams and company the benefit of the doubt that it was Disney pushing them to crank this film out as quickly as possible to start making some money back on their multi-billion dollar investment, but everything about it felt rushed and incomplete. Not something to be studied and analyzed for its brilliance.

April 6, 2016 at 9:55PM

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Tony Virili
Digital Mercenary
161

I'm going to be taking a look at the special features of the blu-ray later this month so hopefully I'll be able to get some counterpoints for ya, Tony.

April 7, 2016 at 11:37AM

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Jon Fusco
Producer/Editor
Actor/Writer/Director

Agreed. Rey never struck me as lonely. Rey never struck me as anything really, she's pretty much blank. None of the characters are particularly compelling. Luke was so lonely he was excited to have droids to talk to.

April 13, 2016 at 2:19PM

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Nathan Taylor
Jack of all trades, master of none
173

Damnnnnnn John

April 9, 2016 at 1:29AM

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"Jawn."

April 11, 2016 at 3:00PM, Edited April 11, 3:00PM

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Jon Fusco
Producer/Editor
Actor/Writer/Director

I'd say her taking up only a tiny fraction of the frame is way more important than that she is on one half of the screen. Or center sometimes. This was a pretty useless video.

April 6, 2016 at 5:39PM

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Sander J. Skjegstad
Composer, director
8

I don't think Rey's compositions in these shots mean anything besides a good, balanced frame. Only J.J. or the DP Can say for a certainty, but come on, guys.

http://expertphotography.com/basic-composition-techniques-balance/

April 6, 2016 at 6:05PM, Edited April 6, 6:05PM

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Link doesn't work to the video, unfortunately.

April 6, 2016 at 6:56PM, Edited April 6, 6:56PM

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Well, probably the copyright police has struck again....

April 7, 2016 at 4:08AM

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Matt
164

it's ok, people seem to be outraged by the simplicity of the video anyway.

April 7, 2016 at 11:36AM

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Jon Fusco
Producer/Editor
Actor/Writer/Director

No one is "outraged" by the simplicity of the video. It's thesis is weak. Some folks are just pointing that out.

April 8, 2016 at 5:34PM

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Ya, this one may have been more of a video musing than a video essay. It is interesting how Star Wars never fails to inspire strong feelings in people though.

April 11, 2016 at 3:09PM, Edited April 11, 3:09PM

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Jon Fusco
Producer/Editor
Actor/Writer/Director

Looks like the video was deleted by its creator...

April 6, 2016 at 9:16PM, Edited April 6, 9:16PM

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Jon Fusco
Producer/Editor
Actor/Writer/Director

Why are you giving J.J. Abrams credit for the framing of these images and not the Director of Photography?

April 7, 2016 at 10:40PM

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Josh Ausley
Director of Photography
74

This happens all the time and honestly its getting tiring.

April 11, 2016 at 11:14PM, Edited April 11, 11:14PM

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B.D. Sharples
Cinematographer and Director
151