Astrologers have preached the importance of studying the zodiac for thousands of years, believing that looking to the stars can help achieve a deeper understanding of oneself. In recent years there has been a resurgence in the popularity of astrology, driven by the younger generations, who use the zodiac to help navigate their own thoughts and actions. This is partly fuelled by the pandemic and political turmoil, since studies have found that people turn to spirituality during times of uncertainty.
Still for numerous individuals the zodiac remains a mysterious and foreign concept, with many not knowing their Aries from their Aquarius. So, for those who want to adapt to our ever-growing spiritual times, I have picked one film to represent each sign, to help film lovers understand the mystical world of the zodiac.
The Worst Person in the World (2021) – Joachim Trier
The Worst Person in the World, the final film of Joachim Trier’s Oslo trilogy, brilliantly captures the bold ambition of the zodiac’s first sign, Aries. The film follows Julie, over the course of four years, a young woman searching for meaning, whilst navigating her ever shifting career path and turbulent love life.
Renate Reinsve’s portrayal of the character, which won her best actress at Cannes, embodies the distinctly impulsive and daring nature of the fire sign, Aries, as she constantly changes her appearance, job and boyfriends, in a struggle to find her own identity. Still, Trier’s film celebrates the 21st century adult’s turbulent search for maturity and meaning, and as the youngest of the signs, Aries embodies this open-minded attitude to discovering the world and one’s own place within it.
Harold and Maude (1971) – Hal Ashby
The cult classic Harold and Maude centres around the two eccentric title characters. The male lead, Harold (Bud Cort), is a young man whose favourite hobbies include faking elaborate suicides and attending funerals. While, the 79-year-old Maude (Ruth Gordon), embraces a more free-spirited lifestyle, which ultimately teaches him about the importance of living life to its fullest. Throughout the film, Harold perfectly embodies the traits of the Taurus sign. Taurus, represented by the enduring bull, is the most grounded of the zodiac, and what can be more grounded than obsession with death? He is also the much younger of the film’s two protagonists but displays the attitude of an old soul, a characteristic of the often wise Taurus. Although containing a controversial storyline, Harold and Maude is to many a comfort film, and there’s nothing more symbolic of the Taurus sign than embracing comfort.
Passages (2023) – Ira Sachs
Ira Sachs’ most recent film, Passages, tells the story of Tomas played by Franz Rogowski, a self-centred film director torn between his husband Martin (Ben Whishaw) and a younger woman Agathe (Adèle Exarchopoulos). Although Sachs dislikes the external placement of labels on his characters, it would not be a far reach to suggest that Tomas, the instigator of the film’s poisonous love triangle, is a Gemini.
The sign is represented by the celestial twins, and with a desire in countless pursuits, is constantly faced with options and pairs. Whilst Gemini’s are often extroverted and quick witted, they are also indecisive and unreliable, sometimes to a fault. Although Tomas is extremely charismatic, his craving for both love interests, failing to commit to one, ultimately leads to his downfall, and demonstrates the plight of the Gemini.
Before Sunset (2004) – Richard Linklater
All three films in Richard Linklater’s ‘Before’ Trilogy are sweetly sentimental yet realistic depictions of love and relationships. The first in the trilogy, Before Sunrise may seemingly be the most romantic of all the films, following two young characters meeting for the first time and falling in love over the course of a day. But it’s the second instalment, and my personal favourite, Before Sunset, which seamlessly encapsulates the emotional vulnerability of the Cancer sign.
The film reintroduces the protagonists Ethan Hawke’s Jesse, and Julie Delpy’s Celine, nine years after their first and last encounter in Vienna. Whilst they both reminisce on the day they spent together, they must accept that they’ve spent years apart and found separate partners in the process. Although a sensitive water sign, Cancers are controlled by a need to protect their feelings. This is echoed in Before Sunset’s leading characters, who although have a romantic memory of each other, remain mostly distant, only letting down their emotional guard in the film’s final minutes.
The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945) – Albert Lewin
The Picture of Dorian Gray is Oscar Wilde’s most salacious and celebrated tale. The story of a hedonistic young man consumed with vanity and corrupted by hedonism, who sells his soul for eternal youth, distinctly embodies the proud yet vivacious Leo. Although unlike most of Wilde’s work, the tale of Dorian Grey was not written for the stage, but the 1945 film adaptation perfectly embraces the novel’s richly dramatic subjects, whilst Hurd Hatfield demonstrates the unwavering charm of Gray. This is distinctly fitting for the zodiacs fifth sign, as with a tendency for the theatrics, there is nothing a Leo craves more than being the centre of attention. Leo is represented by the lion, and as the most regal of the signs, is no stranger to lavish dinners and dedicant parties, not unlike Wilde’s infamous protagonist.
The Philadelphia Story (1940) – George Cukor
As a Virgo myself, I’ve always idealistically believed that Katharine Hepburn was ‘one of us,’ portraying the positive attributes of this sign, independent with an intellectual persona. It wasn’t until I finally decided to look it up, did I receive the devastating knowledge that she was, in fact, a Taurus. I would however, like to suggest that her character Tracy Lord, in the 1940 screwball comedy, The Philadelphia Story, is a Virgo. The character is a formidable socialite, who on the eve of the wedding of her second marriage, is interrupted by her ex-husband (Cary Grant) and a prying journalist (James Stewart). Although approached with romantic advances from both men, Tracy remains strong-willed keeping her meticulously crafted appearance, even when she eventually chooses to go back to her ex-husband, which is Virgoan in nature.
La Grande Bellezza (2013) – Paolo Sorrentino
Paolo Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza tells the story of Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo) an ageing socialite consumed by pleasure, who fails to escape his continual ennui. The film embraces the rich decadence of Italy’s upper classes, where the protagonist not just belongs but is celebrated, allowing the audience to indulge in this society’s detached opulence. With lingering shots of Rome, showing the architecture, interior design and the people within the city, the film revels in this cosmopolitan beauty, a trait connected to the Libra sign.
Libras, represented by scales, are known for focusing on balance and symmetry, but ruled by the planet Venus they are also obsessed with beauty and love, with a particular appreciation for high art and intellectualism. They also enjoy surrounding themselves with beautiful things with a need to curate their environments, since this is a passion embraced by Sorrentino’s libertine protagonist, the film is representative of Libra’s aesthetic tendencies.
Suspiria (1977) Dir. Dario Argento
Suspiria, a 1977 Italian horror follows the journey of a young American ballerina, Suzy, played by Jessica Harper, who travels to Germany to attend a prestigious ballet academy is soon confronted by a series of sinister events. The exquisitely crafted film depicts the terror of a woman’s descent into madness, as Suzy eventually discovers the dark secrets of her surroundings.
Directed by Dario Argento, Suspiria is a staple of the horror genre, a genre which purely encapsulates the venomous Scorpio, the most mysterious sign of the zodiac. The film’s theme of artistic obsession matches the intensity of Scorpios who use their strong emotional energy as fuel and motivation. The sign is also extremely clairvoyant and intuitive, which perfectly complements Suspiria, a horror film based in the supernatural.
Bande à Part (1964) – Jean-Luc Godard
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard, Bande à Part follows two amateur criminals obsessed with Hollywood B-movies, Franz (Sami Frey) and Arthur (Claude Brasseur) who convince the object of their shared affection, Odile (Anna Karina), to help them commit a robbery – in her own home.
One of the most significant pieces of French New Wave cinema, Godard reinvents the crime drama, perfectly capturing the spirit of Sagittarius, the most adventurous of the zodiac signs. This heist film represents Sagittarius’s longing for freedom, as they are often fuelled with a desire to explore the wider world. This is demonstrated by the film’s ending as the two remaining characters Franz and Odile, drive off with the money from the robbery, realise their love and flee to South America.
Whiplash (2014) – Damien Chazelle
Whiplash is a story about the sacrifice of unbridled determination and perseverance. Directed by Damien Chazelle, the film is shown from the perspective of a young drummer, Andrew, played by Miles Teller, who attends an extremely competitive music conservatory. Under the training of an unforgiving teacher, Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), Andrew is pushed to the limits of his ability, as Fletcher uses unconventional and emotionally abusive methods to realise his full talent. Capricorns are known for their extreme dedication, which is highlighted in Andrew’s relentless willpower to succeed, even under increasingly pressured circumstances. However, this earth sign is also exceptionally resilient, a trait celebrated within the film’s settings, arguably to an unhealthy extent. Whiplash is a fitting representation of the Capricorn signs, capturing both its courageous ambition and Capricorn’s arguably cutthroat behaviours.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) – Luis Buñuel
Luis Buñuel’s serialist masterpiece, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, starring Fernando Rey, Stéphane Audran, Delphine Seyrig, Jean-Pierre Cassel, and Bulle Ogier; is at its core, deeply weird. The French language film about a group of bourgeois dinner guests trying to have a meal whilst constantly disturbed by bizarre events, share several characteristics with the Aquarius sign. Although, none of the films central characters seem to belong to the sign, since Aquarius’ despise small talk and often appear aloof; the stories continual interruptions, which challenges the polite guest’s ability to project a level of normalcy represents Aquarius’ eccentric nature.
The film consists of several scenes based on Buñuel’s own dreams and tricks the audience and his own characters into making sense of the story. This is similar to the Aquarius sign which is represented by the water bearer, a mystical being who bestows water and life. With one foot grounded and another in the water, Aquarius represents balance between the fantastical and realistic, a balance encapsulated in this film.
Melancholia (2011) – Lars von Trier
One Sunday afternoon, walking through Soho, I passed a group of people looking miserable, slightly disturbed, yet somewhat lost in thought. They were leaving the Prince Charles cinema. Confused, I turned to my friend who simply said: “they all just came out of a screening of Melancholia.” I wonder how many of them were Pisces.
Melancholia is a film about two sisters, one of whom just got married before a planet is about to collide with earth. Many have argued that it’s one of the greatest films about depression, which feels fitting for the extremely sensitive and ‘melancholy’ Pisces. Since it’s the final sign of the zodiac, it is said to have absorbed all the lessons and emotions learned and experienced by other signs. Pisces embrace spiritual exploration, and Melancholia’s ability to delve into its character’s psyche makes it a fitting representation of this water sign.