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.
Once a month Vesna Ivkovic will draw the connections offering insight into the cinematic representations and forms of expression for the current zodiacal sign.
Being generously treated during the past few weeks to the sun’s radiance and warmth, we can feel its vital force more clearly than usual, just as the zest for life that comes with it. It becomes palpable how much powerful life force a combustion process is able to produce. If it wasn’t for the exactly right measure of warmth, which the heart of our solar system is providing us with, there would be no life on earth – a tad too much or too little of its animating fire would leave our planet to wither instead of vitalizing it.
As a metaphor this illustrates the main features and functions of the Leo sign, which is ruled by the sun: self-centredness and self-expression, the ability to radiate vitality and lust for life and to inspire and invigorate anyone around you with your own spiritedness. Just as earth is animated by the sun, we can be inspired and encouraged by the radiance of a person, who is the centre of attention, acting with contagious enthusiasm and maybe even being celebrated for it. The same is true for our very own creativity, when we follow it with passion, making it the focal point of our life.
Leo represents the confidence in our own grandness and majesty. It embodies the pride and joy inspired by our uniqueness and our creativity. And it also stands for our need to be admired and appreciated for the individual and highly subjective way of expressing ourselves. Thus the often attributed egocentrism also does apply to Leo and even haughtiness, egomania and hubris are no strangers to this sign; yet its positive side shows in its infectious joyousness and warm-hearted generosity.
Leo in cinema celebrates the vitality and creativity of the individual. It inspires and elates us with stories about people, who are bringing their talents to fruition by doing their own thing with all their heart and against all odds and finally gaining respect and admiration – at least by us, their audience.
Quite often the film’s titles already name a Leo-motif, like in “There’s No Business Like Show Business“ (W. Lang, 1954) starring Marilyn Monroe and narrating the turbulent history of a family of performers and their passion for show business. Judy Garlands comeback-movie “A Star is Born“ (G. Cukor, 1954), of which there are two other versions (1937 and 1976), as well reveals its Leo-topic in the title. The legendary film diva stars as a young woman becoming a big show star because of her talent and with the help of a man who recognizes her giftedness and supports her although meanwhile his own career deteriorates. By means of both main characters the significance of generosity and appreciation, yet also the star’s dependency on her or his audience is illustrated.
The musical genre shows plenty of Leo-features, yet there are films from other genres too, telling about stars in various arenas, about kings and queens in all areas of life impressing and inspiring their courts and audiences. There is a strong Leo-quality in “Ali” (M. Mann, 2001), a biopic about the boxing world champion Cassius Clay also known as. Muhammad Ali, who was noted during the 60ies and 70ies for his extraordinary stage presence, his boastful talk and nicknamed “The Greatest”. And certainly a unique historical Leo-personality like the Sun King, Louis XIV, with his court and the whole scenery of Versailles provides a dazzling Leo-tone in “The King Is Dancing” (G. Corbiau, 2000).
Many Leo-movies are filled with music, song and dance, as these expressions of individuality and lust for life are most effectively illustrating a creative fire and can sweep away most audiences, especially the younger ones. Dance movies like “Flashdance“ (A. Lyne, 1983), “Footloose” (H. Ross, 1984) und “Dirty Dancing” (E. Ardolino, 1987) or the recent series of “Step Up” flicks (A. Fletcher, 2006; further „Step Up 2: The Streets“, 2008; „Step Up 3D“, 2010 and „Step Up Revolution“, 2012) are all about youngsters, for whom their dancing is a symbol of their uniqueness and the most important thing in their lives (or at least a certain phase). These movies and their protagonists became audience favourites and idols, inspiring whole generations of teenagers to pursue their passion and develop their personal talents, and accompanying many along the path of self-expression and individual fulfilment. “Fame” (A. Parker, 1980) also is one of those films, following several students at the New York High School of Performing Arts through their studies from the qualifying examination to the final. “A Chorus Line” (R. Attenborough, 1985) is showing in a dramatic yet amusing way the difficult path all of those, who are trying so hard to prove their unique talent, have to take in order to get a chance of reaching their dream and living their life on stage. It deserves to be mentioned here too.
Bright and powerful colours frequently take over the visual presentation of Leo-films, particularly in shots that are meant to provide a stage for the main protagonist’s expressive appearance. One of the important features of a typical Leo-movie is that a single character is made the focus of attention: everything revolves around him or her. His or her talents, self-expression, emotions become the heart of the story and everything else is arranged around this centrepiece, only considered in its relation to the centre.
When a Leo-film succeeds to unfold its full effect on us, we leave the cinema feeling cheerfully creative and lusting for life. Sometimes we’d like to start right away singing and dancing ourselves just to express our personal feelings in our own and unique way… Even if we don’t do that at that very moment, we do feel inspired and vibrant and want to celebrate this spiritedness by “coming out of our shell”. This expression illustrates what Leo is all about: transporting the inner motion and feelings to the outside (for the audience to see and admire).
In the course of film history show business proves to be the most popular setting for stories about individual fulfilment, just like this one told in another classic musical: “Funny Girl” (W. Wyler, 1968) conveys parts of New York’s singing and dancing comedienne Fanny Brice’s biography as a retelling of the Ugly Duckling fairy tale, where the beautiful swan gets recognition only after overcoming great adversities. Other than the fairy-tale swan our Fanny Brice played by Barbra Streisand is self-confident right from the start. She holds great belief in her talent for stardom as she clearly expresses singing “I’m the Greatest Star” while she’s being rejected and shooed away from a casting. It is a substantial Leo-feeling to be aware of one’s own greatness and importance, even when nobody else is willing to acknowledge it. A Leo-character like Fanny also has no issue with demanding applause: In the sequel “Funny Lady” (H. Ross, 1975) she belts out “Let’s Hear It For Me” with utter self-certitude. Even so there’s also a hint to the enormous importance external reassurance holds for the Leo-character.
In the underrated Scorsese-film “King of Comedy” (M. Scorsese, 1982) the main character, a failing comedian played by Robert de Niro, thinks of himself as the best, with the exception of a successful TV-comic, whom he considers as a role model and kindred spirit. Yet by not admitting him to the show, this guy also refuses to give him a chance to break through to allegedly well-deserved stardom. So he kidnaps him, blackmails the guy into letting him appear on the TV-show and thus at least becomes “king for one night”. With the autobiography following his trial and jail sentence he finally does become famous after all…
The star in the witty and moving British film “Billy Elliot” (S. Daldry, 2000) is an 11-year-old boy, struggling for acceptance and acknowledgement of his dancing talent. Growing up in a mining town, he has a father and a brother who are both miners without any sense for ballet and least of all they can imagine seeing their boy as a ballerina. Yet instead of going to the boxing training his father orders him to take up, Billy secretly attends ballet class, because he simply loves to dance and, as he puts it once, he feels this fire in his body. The ballet teacher recognizes his talent and encourages him, to follow his path against all odds. The optimistic ending has his family finally acknowledge Billy’s talent and start supporting him. Since “Billy Elliot” also hints at the motif of rebellion and being an outsider, the story builds a bridge to Leo’s counterpart Aquarius, which is not unusual in a Leo-film as following one’s own path quite often (and sometimes inevitably) is combined with breaking rules and disregarding conventions.
It is no coincidence almost all of the aforementioned movies emerged before and in the 80ies or after the turn of the millennium. The post-modern 90ies, when anything seemed feasible, when the idea of deconstructed identity made its way into popular culture, stopped taking dreams of personal grandeur and craving for uniqueness and individual expression too seriously. With the spirit of the time asking for ironic distortion, it just didn’t seem fit to take pure Leo-energy to the screen (Leo doesn’t agree with irony towards his emotional expression and for lack of distance towards his sentiments and his strong ego he also has no sense for self-mockery).
Symptomatic of the post-modern freedom and the feeling of detachment and deconstruction linked to it, a dance movie from this decade, like e.g. Baz Luhrmanns “Strictly Ballroom” (1992) manifests articulate Aquarius-traits along with the dramatically pointed Leo-theme. The typical bright colours of Leo-cinema are employed here in exaggerated garish hues for visual alienation and the Aquarius-topic of rebellion and rule-breaking is put forward, implemented in a downright caricatural presentation of conformity. Only through these stylistic devices of refraction and an accordingly changed perspective an all the more passionate celebration and glamorous fulfilment of highly individual self-expression having barely escaped the ego’s deconstruction can be observed – and enjoyed.
1.This may explain why Leo follows Cancer: in Cancer we explore and feel the inside, in Leo the inside finds outward expression.
2.The lyrics of both songs qualify as extraordinary Leo-anthems with their verse verbalizing typical Leo-sentiments e.g.: „For this overwhelming sensation I could stand a standing ovation […] And the critics and the public agree I'm the number one attraction to see. So applaud it and cheer it, Come on now let's hear it for me
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