This post contains spoilers. Flashbacks in a movie typically reference what’s going on in the present, and the ones in M. Night Shyamalan’s Split are no different.
Kevin (James McAvoy), a man with multiple-personality disorder – with a yet-to-emerge master persona, The Beast – has kidnapped three female teens, one of whom is Casey (Anna Taylor-Joy). Casey is less hysterical and more quietly cunning than the other two captives, but she’s still beset by troubling visual remembrances of her past.
Casey’s flashbacks are of hunting expeditions and rifle-training that she took with her father and uncle John (Brad William Henke) at a very young age. Off-camera, John takes sexual advantage of the girl, providing the archetypal set-up. John, a Plutonic Underworld figure with raw, chthonic desires, seduces a child – unable to fire her weapon at her attacker when she has that chance – whose innocence is sacrificed. When her father dies, John becomes her caretaker.
In ancient times, deities that lived below the earth often offered up living creatures as part of rituals in confined pits. And now, in the movie’s present, the teen trio are reminded that they’ll be “sacred food,” a telling statement, given the root of the word “sacred” is tied to sacrifice. Even more striking, they’re underground – where the ancient rituals took place – and where the only “door” of escape is a picture of one on the wall, as though a reminder of an exit-portal in the psyche.
Eventually The Beast reveals itself, and Casey runs through a real-life and internal labyrinth. When she, once again armed with a rifle, comes face-to-face with the creature, she pulls the trigger, redeeming her previous inaction at that initial sacrifice. The present moment suggests a culmination of years of struggle – acting out in school so she’d be sent to prison-like detention where she’d be free of John’s physical presence.
Jung’s Shadow Archetype looms large here. The Shadow is that thing inside us we consciously don’t own up to and that our egos refuse to identify with. In Casey’s life, this undesirable part of her personality may be her shame, many years ago, over not having fought her rapist. Casey’s moment with her Beast in her underground jail – which is actually the basement of a zoo that is full of them – is when she frees herself, through acknowledgment of her wound and use of her weapon.
The Beast speaks to Casey, but what it says is actually Casey’s words to herself: that her own cutting has been an act of purification, a guarantee that no more sacrifices will be required of her. In other words, she’s no longer on the menu as “sacred food.” But the look on her face when she’s in the car, and with John presumably still in the picture, it is genuine food for thought that she might solidify her newly found strength and take it up more than just a notch.
Archetype: Shadow. Sacrificial Victim.
Astrology Archetype: ♇ (Pluto)