A Cinematic Zodiac -
New Images for Old Archetypes

Cinema as an image machine exhibits a vast abundance of archetypal characters, motifs, and qualities, which in astrology are embodied by planets, constellations and the signs of the zodiac.

Vesna Ivkovic draws the connections offering insight into the cinematic representations and forms of expression for the zodiacal signs.

Aries in Cinemascope: racy, boisterous and high on adrenaline

Krieger Aries is the sign marking the beginning of any zodiacal cycle. Representing everything new, it stands just as well for the burgeoning and burst of buds in spring as for conquering new (living) space, the start of a new adventure and the aggressive struggle to come out on top and achieve your objectives.

Key words describing Aries are: strong will, warrior power, straightforwardness, crudeness. Aries corresponds to the wild, the raw, the not-yet-cultivated and the instincts of self-assertion. Aggressiveness, risk-proclivity and courage are his qualities, he’s driven by the irrepressible desire to be first in any competition and characterized by rapidity, assertiveness and a feisty pioneer spirit...

Hence it is obvious: no western, no heroic epic or adventure flick, hardly any crime thriller and of course – the name of the genre is telling – no action movie could work without a big portion of Aries’ pugnacious qualities. Since the time when pictures were set in motion Aries-analogies are ranking high among the favourite motifs, narratives and characters in cinema.

Aries-cinema is emphasizing the body – so much so, that even the audience can experience it: high adrenaline production is desirable. Apart from battle and chase as a theme in modern action cinema, the Aries-quality also manifests in rapidly edited, kinetic and aggressive images and a loud, energetic soundtrack of rock music or powerful hip-hop and crossover with driving beats. The body and its strength, often enhanced by body-extensions like weapons or fast vehicles, is the central agent and the target of the typical Aries-movie, where the laws of physics are being attacked with relish and frequently even defeated.

Warriors: imagined, moved and heroic

Characters representing the pure Aries-archetype are rarely the main protagonists. Rather are they furious adversaries or simple thugs, whom the hero (less frequently a heroine) has to defeat or to dispose of. As violence, pugnacity and aggressiveness in our society are considered to be negative behaviour patterns, they have to be brought into service for a higher cause or at least be scantily justified by morals, so the audience would not dislike the hero.

Fight ClubVery unusual (not only) in this regard was the sensational cult picture „Fight Club“ (Fincher, 1999), where the split Aries-energy and thus the resulting projection of Aries-like behaviour was consequentially staged as a dual personality.

In a very different way the conflict around violence and warrior power was experienced in „Last Samurai“ (Zwick, 2003) by a soldier living through a personal crisis concerning his profession. And it can also be found some decades ago in the controversy around the title character in the military classic „Patton“ (Schaffner, 1970).

Based on a graphic novel about the ancient battle between Spartans and Persians at Thermopylae, the heroic epic „300“ (Snyder, 2006) a few years ago earned both enthusiastic and disgusted reviews for it’s exceedingly stylized aesthetics of battle and violence and it’s unveiled performance of vigorous militantness.

Veterans and old warhorses

But the appetite for fighting, which comes natural to the Aries-archetype is very much accommodated in popular movie genres: martial arts movies stage the fighting almost completely as an end in itself. Modern action cinema, flourishing in the eighties, is always offering new – or newly reissued – shots of adrenaline, frequently administered by long serving heroes, since the genre’s pioneers are still active:

Sylvester Stallone who in the “Rocky”- and “Rambo”-movies gave a face to these milestones of Aries-cinema, after the smoking explosions of „The Expandables“ shoots his way through the lines of hostile henchmen in Walter Hill’s new film “Bullet to the Head” – the title itself mentioning two Aries-analogies: permeation and the head... During the seventies a grandmaster of action cinema, Walter Hill, started shooting genre classics with titles clearly hinting at Aries-motifs: “The Driver”, “The Warriors”, “Streets of Fire”, “Last Man Standing” etc.

Bruce WillisBruce Willis, who also had a part in “The Expandables”, currently is “dying hard” for the fifth time in “A Good Day to Die Hard“ and in „G.I. Joe: Retaliation“ he’s taking command over a special task force, fighting for survival and saving the world. Moreover he will soon be very much in action again as the retired CIA-agent Frank Moses in “Red 2”.

Once making the silver screen quake as “Conan the Barbarian” and “The Terminator”, even Arnold Schwarzenegger after short appearances in the “The Expandables” picks up his guns again, preparing for the ultimate fight in “The Last Stand”.

Masculine muscle show

Presently we can watch the younger manpower-part from the “Expandables”-movies, new action hero Jason Statham struggling his way through a risky survival course in “Parker”. Statham became known since 2002 by being the star of the “Transporter”-films, which were banking on racy car chases, most definitely presentable manly muscles and impressively choreographed fight-scenes. Many films Statham starred in have such telling titles like „Death Race“, „War“ or „Blitz“…

The (alleged) simplicity, the straightforwardness and little complexity of such action fests as e.g. the “G.I. Joe”-pictures (which are based on a toyline) or the “Fast & Furious”-series (the sixth installment premieres in May) are of course also distinctive features of Aries. Along with furious fights and big explosions there usually are more Aries-typical elements like fast cars, races and chases, extreme adrenalin sport stunts, military operations by exceptionally powerful and quick-moving elite units acting on their own judgement etc. (in “G.I. Joe” there’s even an arms factory named “MARS” – please note the anagram!)

Fast & FuriousThe big star in the “Fast & Furious”-series is Vin Diesel, whose filmography comprises titles as “Extreme Rage” and violent parts such as a dangerous mercenary in “Babylon A.D.”. Most of his characters were representations of Aries-energy: 2002 he played the adrenaline addicted thrill seeker, extreme sports athlete and by force recruited agent “xXx – Triple X”, whose comeback is being planned presently. The underrated science-fiction-film “Pitch Black” (Twohy, 2000) initiated Diesel’s career with the character of a predatory killer named Riddick coming from the planet Furia (!). Riddick was an unexpected and yet absolutely archetypal Aries-hero – and he’s about to return to the screen this year in “Riddick: Dead Man Stalking”.

Yet most of the classic heroes and regrettably rare heroines in the action-genre are the likes of solitary ex-military “Jack Reacher”, of hard-hitting cops as in the recent “The Crime” or battle-tested agents as the infrequent female agent in last year’s “Haywire” by Soderbergh.

Female power – heroines in "guy flicks"

It’s probably obvious by now: archetypal Aries-qualities apply to genres addressing boys and men – still there are always many women in the audience. While aggressiveness and zest for fighting are per se regarded as suspicious character traits in our culture, for quite a long time they were hardly imaginable in a woman and thus the aggressively fighting woman is still a stranger in our collective iconography, especially as a positive and likeable heroine.

Sigourney WeaverHowever, there are Aries-heroines respectively movies emphasizing the Aries-archetype with female protagonists. It is significant though that they appear mainly in science fiction or fantasy narratives. Sigourney Weaver as the fierce scientist (later even clone) in the “Alien”-movies comes to mind, Angelina Jolie as “Lara Croft” and in the sci-fi-mystery “Wanted” and Milla Jovovich as not entirely human mutant in the sci-fi-action-flicks „Ultraviolet“ und „Resident Evil“. There are a few more characters in films based on superhero graphic novels or set in medieval, supernatural or futuristic worlds. Yet already in 1990 the martial artist Cynthia Rothrock gained some fame with remarkable fighting skills and a powerful punch in cheap B-pictures like „Rapid Fire“, „China O’Brien“, „Angel of Fury“ and „Lady Dragon“, all of them coming up with generally realistic albeit conventional crime plots. Rothrock became an important role model for many a young woman practising martial arts. The Danish film “Fighter” (Arthy, 2007) about a young Turkish woman, who is practising martial arts and struggling for her self-determination shows on one occasion a poster of Cynthia Rothrock in a characteristic fighting pose…

Heroines in Aries-cinema are invading male domains, as it is narrated beautifully in „Girl Fight“ (Kusama, 2009) and „G.I. Jane“ (R. Scott, 1997), where strong-willed and fierce women have to prove themselves in professional boxing respectively in military special forces.

The Aries-typical zest for fighting and winning is not gender-specific. There is some Aries in every one of us after all…


Vesna Ivkovic

Vesna Ivkovic Vesna Ivkovic studied literature and linguistics, sociology, philosophy and history and as well took a profound interest in psychology, mythology and different belief systems. Along the way she also explored various paths of body awareness such as the martial arts of Kung Fu, Dance, Yoga, Qi Gong and several other methods of body work and motion arts. In 1993 she discovered astrology as an instrument of knowledge and graduated in 2004 in Markus Jehle's and Petra Niehaus' master class at the Astrology Center Berlin. You can find out more about the author and her work on her own website www.astrosemiotics.de

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