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.

Virgo in Cinema: From attentiveness
to obsessive compulsion

Movie: Frohes SchaffenThe alphabet of typical Virgo-features is elaborately spelled out from A as in attentive and adaptable to C as in compulsive, M as in meticulous and P as in practical to W as in worrying. Virgos position in the Zodiac between Leo and Libra, that is, between individualistic self-expression and the encounter with the other, points to its function as a balancing interface between these two very different realms. To make the necessary adjustments many of the aforementioned characteristics are useful, others, also attributed to Virgo like for example censoriousness or self-righteousness, indicate the issues emerging from excessive perfectionism and respectability. Imagination and romanticism anyway are no part of the Virgo-alphabet and thus the main representations of Virgo in cinema are found in genres and themes with a realistic, critical and sometimes instructive attitude.

Movie: Taste the WasteA perfect example is given by the German documentary “Taste the Waste” (V. Thurn, 2010), which is entering into the question why 50 percent of all the globally produced food is being wasted, denouncing our consumer society’s carelessness towards such wastefulness and inefficiency that is inherent to the system. From Virgo’s perspective any waste of resources is uneconomical and thus unacceptable malpractice. Another documentary, the recently released “Frohes Schaffen” (“Keep up the good work”; K. Faigle, 2012), discusses with rational criticism yet also in a satirical way the Virgo-topic of work as an everyday routine necessity and a dutiful service. Basically substantial Virgo-values are being scrutinized and checked for logic and efficiency by use of the Virgo-instrument of analytical reasoning – in many aspects proving our ideas about work irrational.

Work and science as a service to mankind

Movie: KinseyIn a field that is generally handled with very little rationality, rational analysis became the method of famous sexologist „Kinsey“ (B. Condon, 2004). The biopic starring Liam Neeson as Alfred Kinsey covers the biologist’s research and data acquisition on human sexuality and also the ideologically biased reactions to his work [1.]. Kinsey’s statistical work on sexual behaviour of US-citizens in the 40ies and 50ies is not only for his method considered a basic part of modern sexology. Well known as the “Kinsey scale” and still in use is a scale he developed for measuring sexual orientation.

To catalogue, name, measure, calculate, assort and analyze are the typical techniques of a Virgo-led approach towards the world. Thus the German “schoolmaster”-movie “Measuring the World” (D. Buck, 2012) reflects these regulatory operations already in its title. Although the mathematician’s Carl Friedrich Gauß’ enthusiasm for insight and the natural scientist’s Alexander von Humboldt propensity for travelling do also show a great deal of Sagittarius-energy here.

Movie: HysteriaThe topic of sexual history is again referred to with considerably more humour in “Hysteria” (T. Wexler, 2011): In 19th century’s Victorian England it appeared to be entirely regular practice and medical requirement to provide women, who were showing symptoms subsumed at that time under the diagnosis of “hysteria” with relief and relaxation in an actually “manual” and quite pragmatic way. After assuming this task in an older colleague’s office, a young physician becomes very successful and eventually – together with his friend, who is a resourceful inventor – he develops a device that becomes the precursor of modern vibrators. Almost casually the smart comedy also touches upon some big issues of those times like the suffragette’s fight for women’s rights and the problem of massive poverty among the working class.

“Hysteria” is a great example to show how ideas about decency are linked to the actual socio-cultural context. And although the term “common sense” too is a part of the Virgo-alphabet, things that are “done like that” or moreover “simply not done” differ very much as one moves through time and/or space.

Whistleblower: Guardians of decency

Movie: SilkwoodYet rather a specific idea of decency has to be behind the activities of so called whistleblowers: people, who consider it their duty to let the public know about indecent rule-breaking like corruption, violations of human rights or data abuse, just like recently Edward Snowden did, whose story undoubtedly will sooner or later also find its way to the silver screen.

A well-known classic on that topic is “Silkwood” (M. Nichols, 1983), based on the true story of Karen Silkwood, who discovered irregularities concerning industrial safety regulation at her work-place: a nuclear power plant. Worrying for her own health and the health of her co-workers she does investigate further and discovers serious and dangerous deficits. Then she dies in a mysterious car accident just before going public…

Michael Mann made a movie about the tough fight revolving around Jeffrey Wigand’s controversial TV-interview on tobacco industry: “The Insider” (1999) starring Russell Crowe and Al Pacino. Wigand was once head of a research and development department in a tobacco corporation, later he broke a confidentiality agreement by openly talking on TV about carcinogenic and addictive additives in tobacco. “The Insider” doesn’t make this man a hero; rather it makes him look as a person unwillingly dragged into the spotlights by carrying out his duty to serve his own idea of decency.

Movie: the WistleblowerSet in post-war Bosnia in the 90ies “The Whistleblower“ (L. Kondracky, 2010) is all about international UN-peacekeepers being involved with forced prostitution, sexual slavery and human trafficking. Inspired by actual events as well, this film reveals Kathryn Bolkovacs’ efforts to bring the scandal to the public’s attention – and the responsible persons to trial. According to its subject, there are many Scorpio- and Capricorn-elements, yet the righteous anger about what’s happening is pure Virgo.

In “The East“ (Z. Batmanglij, 2013) there’s no genuine whistleblower, yet the whole movie could be taken as such. Dealing with eco-terrorism this up-to-date thriller accuses companies and corporations of endangering public health and causing profitable ecological disasters but it also doesn’t leave out self-righteousness as a typical Virgo-issue.

Prim and proper

Movie: Lover come backCompared to all this serious concerns, the indecencies which in many of her movies Doris Day is virtuously getting worked up about are harmless. The actress, whose wholesome image seems to perfectly reflect the prudish and clean-cut morals of the 50ies, embodies in many of her typical roles some of the most notable Virgo-characters film history has to offer. Apparently a respectable, down-to-earth and level-headed worker bee she always meticulously attends to her duties with great diligence and decency, be it as a homemaker and mother, as a business woman or employee – only to start developing a carefully romantic side after a while… The humour in many of her comedies is based upon her getting involved with men, whose loose morals in both matters of love and work enrage her, yet whose wily ability to adapt[2.] or even brazen temper constitute a challenge for her self control. In “Pillow Talk” (M. Gordon, 1959), for example, the philandering man she’s at feud with over a shared telephone line, seduces her by using tricks and lies. And in “Lover Come Back” (D. Mann, 1961) the man, whose indecent methods as a rival for an advertisement campaign infuriate her, succeeds to win her heart with a false identity. Naturally in both cases her indignation and fury is immense, when Rock Hudson’s cunning characters are found out by her.

In “A Touch of Mink” (D. Mann, 1962) Doris Day’s Virgo-character (even literally being a virgin here) meets the man of her dreams, played by Cary Grant, in a particularly significant episode: While she’s on her way to a job interview (all neat and tidy of course) his car splashes her dress with mud! She’s puffed up over his indifferent reaction to his misdoing, so in order to appease her and convince her of his good nature he eventually courts her and, being a notorious womanizer, later even invites her on a weekend trip. But although she has already fallen for him and seems willing to ignore her morals, she reacts to the “danger” of extramarital sex with a psychosomatic rash[3.], which “saves” her – of course ultimately leading to a proper and duly marriage proposal…

Taxi drivers and other neurotics

Movie: As Good as It GetsSuch precisely portrayed and distinctive Virgo-roles are in fact not entirely rare in mainstream movies, which for the most part are related to other zodiac signs, yet sometimes can display strong Virgo-features in a single character.

Jack Nicholson as a disparaging, obsessive-compulsive neurotic is a perfect Virgo-character in the comedy “As Good as It Gets” (J.L. Brooks, 1997): New York novelist Melvin brings his own shrink-wrapped disposable cutlery to the restaurant, he uses a freshly unwrapped piece of soap every time he washes his hands and he’s a downright appalling homophobe, racist and altogether disagreeable and joyless man. The very witty movie conveys the unlikely story of his change of heart being the result of his discovery that he’s able to do good and even help other people.

Movie: Taxi DriverDoing good, being useful and having a mission – these are Vietnam veteran Travis Bickle’s wishes. The eponymous hero of Scorsese’s classic “Taxi Driver” (1976) is probably the most famous taxi driver in film history. Travis Bickle rails against the mess and the disarray of “natural” order in the streets, he rants about indecency and immorality destroying society and how dirty street-scum spreads everywhere, driving decent people away and so on… His neurotic and obsessive-compulsive personality becomes more and more evident as his increasingly acute attempts to re-establish his inner orderliness outside of himself fail – and he becomes dangerous. He considers it his mission to clean the city of all he considers dirty…

Yet the wish to serve society can as well emerge in an entirely different form, as we are shown by another taxi driver, who is very much unlike Travis Bickle and nevertheless incorporates one of the purest Movie: CollateralVirgo-characters in film since the millennium: This guy starts his shift by meticulously cleaning the car that his passengers are going to call the cleanest cab in the whole city. Following an apparently well established and exact order, he arranges his personal belongings and we even see that his snack consists of a dainty sandwich actually with healthy vegetable sprouts. Only after a few minutes in the film, we learn that this cabby is really serious about his task, taking people to their destinations in the quickest and shortest and most comfortable way possible. His calculation of driving time is absolutely precise and allows him to always choose the perfect route for every trip, which he even defends against the opinion of his passengers, although in every other respect he’s very accommodating, kind and unassuming, sensitive and always helpful. Being this perfectly archetypal Virgo, the guy is the lead character in Michael Mann’s chilly thriller “Collateral” (2004), although next to Tom Cruise’s enigmatic and cool killer our unobtrusive taxi driver admittedly doesn’t attract much attention – thus emphasizing his Virgo-role even more. During the course of the movie this Virgo then has to learn to overcome his overcautious and perfectionist fears and misgivings and to develop more assertive vigour if he wants to survive and remain being helpful and useful…

1. Hereby the zodiacal tension between Virgo and Sagittarius is showing: It is the friction between purely rational analysis and ideological belief systems, both aiming at a positive outcome, yet differing insofar that Sagittarius already “knows” what this outcome has to be like, while Virgo wants every single detail considered thoroughly first, being ready to change the direction, if a pragmatic solution thus could be facilitated.

2. Particularly in “Pillow Talk” and “Lover Come Back” the male lead displays typical Pisces-features like elusiveness, imagination and inventiveness, intuitive understanding of the other’s psyche, a certain disconnection from reality and a strong inclination to dishonesty – all of which exactly establishes the flip side of the Virgo-Pisces-polarity.

3. Psychosomatic reactions are typical for Virgo as an earth sign, since the extreme orientation on detail applies as well to the body and its health – a perfectly working “filtering system” is necessary to keep everything healthy and in regular order.


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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