Written for Future of the Force, January 2017
There was one film that I used to watch repeatedly while recovering at home after a near-fatal car crash: Return of the Jedi. Despite having recounted stories of the accident and recovery many times in the twenty-one years since they took place, including the beyond-compulsive viewing of the third instalment of the original Star Wars trilogy, it had never occurred to me to question what it was about that particular film that lead to its selection as an obsessive focal point.
Until recently, when a conversation with Future of the Force co-founder, Radio Ryloth, left me considering the choice for the first time. Of all the numerous films available on DVD or VHS in the family home, including A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, what was it about ROTJ that made me want to watch that specific film again and again and again?
The fact that I had suffered a severe head injury certainly contributed to the repetitious element of the viewing. While I would never be so bold as to claim that the force is strong in me, it certainly feels like it was with me on the day of the accident. I was hurled through a car windscreen at 80 mph, ending up in an induced coma in intensive care in order to reduce the severity and permanence of any damage to my bleeding and swollen brain. There was also no shortage of damage to my limbs, internal bleeding, a punctured lung, etc.
When I got home from just under three months in hospital, my memory was so bad I’d sometimes forget what I was saying mid-sentence. Severe head injuries can also make people become obsessive and inflexible, particularly in the months and years immediately following their accidents, so it’s possible that I simply could not adequately remember the film each time or that it just became a habitual fixation.
This still does not explain the reason for the rigid and particular preference for ROTJ, though. I can’t remember but perhaps it was the last film I watched before the crash? Maybe there was a remnant of a memory of watching it shortly before in my scrambled grey matter. I used to watch episodes four, five and six a fair bit so perhaps the comforting familiarity of ROTJ was the cause – but why that episode over the previous two?
Could it be character association? I may not have been bionic to the extent Darth Vader was but maybe undergoing a sequence of operations, rehabilitation and having metal inserted into my body drew me to this dark side titan. That Vader’s right hand is severed from his body is a key witness in the case for association’s responsibility. My left arm, wrist and hand were terribly damaged and needed extensive surgery and rehabilitation, which was still ongoing at this time. It may not have been the right arm, as Vader lost, but it’s not too great a leap of the imagination to see the potential connection there.
Equally, I could have felt akin to Luke Skywalker, seeing as he had also lost his right hand, albeit in the previous episode. That the future dexterity of my withered arm was still very much in question also lends credibility to this line of argument. Did Luke represent a successful recovery, hope and a positive outcome? Or is it just a really good film?
In reality, the reason for selecting ROTJ for repeat viewing will remain a mystery. There is always the possibility that the choice was totally arbitrary, although this does not instinctively feel right. Ultimately, it does not matter; what I do know is that it played a regular, positive role in my tedious recovery. With hindsight, it feels like it acted as a sort of crutch, and for this reason episode six has a special significance for me. So who knows? Perhaps the Force did play a part in my near-miraculous recovery.
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