Now that you’ve had a chance to dissect J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens, you might be left with a few questions about particular plot points or editing choices made throughout the film. One of those questions might just involve Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his odd and ominous choice of decoration in an interrogation room on Starkiller Base. I’m talking, of course, about the table of ashes that Kylo Ren uses to hold his helmet during a scene opposite Daisy Ridley’s Rey. Kind of strange, even for the awkward oddity that is Kylo Ren, so we were wondering, what’s up with that?
In an interview with EW, Abrams explained that there’s more going on with the table of ashes than a simple creepy decision for set dressing. Yes, it does come loaded with meaning that helps to inform Kylo Ren’s character, and yes, it makes him even darker than before. But it also reveals some of the editing at work in the film and how certain scenes might have appeared differently if they had been drawn exactly the way the script was written.
Here’s Abrams’ explanation for why there’s a table full of ash in Kylo Ren’s care:
“Sometimes bits and pieces of one scene end up being something that you use in another scene that you didn’t expect. That’s always kind of fun, when you realize that something you’ve shot actually has a use you didn’t expect.”
For example, Abrams mentioned the interrogation scene in the Starkiller Base. Here, Kylo Ren takes off his mask, but the moment he puts it down into the table of ash was intended for another sequence:
“The backstory is, that that table has the ashes of the enemies he’s killed,” Abrams says. “That moment was actually shot for, and meant to be used in, the scene where he was talking to the Vader mask.”
So the Ash-Filled Table of My Fallen Enemies was originally in Kylo Ren’s private quarters. Its presence adds to the twisted psychology of the tormented character, suggesting that he not only incinerates his enemies but also hordes them for his collection as trophies. Kylo Ren is a great deal more evil than you thought isn’t he?
This also shakes up the order of events somewhat, meaning that Kylo Ren should have revealed his true face, that of Ben Solo, earlier in the film, back when he was having a Hamlet-esque monologue with Darth Vader’s melted helmet.
“He originally had his mask off the first time we shot that scene. Then we reshot it with his mask on, but we had that shot which I loved and thought was so cool of the mask being slammed down into that ash. So that shot was stolen from the scene that we had changed and put into the scene with Rey … He used to place his mask gingerly onto a piece of the set, which was incredibly unimpressive. So this moment made it a much cooler beat.”
So it seems that the ashes do not belong to Darth Vader himself, nor do they exist only as a decorative addition to an otherwise bleak interior of the Starkiller Base. And why they’ve now been blown out to space, one wonders just who those enemies were in an earlier time, before Kylo Ren had turned them to ash? Perhaps we’ll find out in Star Wars: Episode VIII or one of the other planned companion films.