Cinematic Horoscopes: Aquarius Season

By: Daisy Stackpole

We feature twelve films each month that relate to the twelve zodiac signs, accompanied by lighthearted astrological advice.

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Aquarius (January 20 - February 18): Johanna D’Arc of Mongolia (1989) directed by Ulrike Ottinger

Happy Aquarius season, my curious, powerful, freaks! Aquarius, out of all the signs, you might be the hardest to figure out. You thrive on playing mind games and exacting control over your emotions. You make excellent leaders and love power and respect, and you also possess a natural and fierce curiosity. Many Aquarians are drawn to professions that allow them to travel and experience new cultures, such as linguistics or international business. Lastly, Aquarians have a taste for the bizarre and peculiar, so I had to think long and hard about a film that combined cultural exploration, headiness, power struggles, and fantasy, but I found one for you. German filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger’s Johanna D’Arc of Mongolia is perhaps the perfect film for you to watch over your birthday season. The film centers on three cosmopolitan women traveling on the Transsiberian. These women are certainly cultural tourists, seeing the people and cultures they encounter as exotic curiosities instead of humans who simply live in a different way than themselves. That is, until the train is hijacked by Mongolian bandits and the women are taken captive. The woman behind their seizing is Princess Ulan Iga (Xu Re Huar), who is kind, yet powerful and authoritative. She is the doyen of her village, made up of all women, and she welcomes the Western women into their world and integrates them into their ceremonies and rituals - from the sacred to the banal. I will leave the plot there to leave some things a mystery (as I know you like), but I think there are several things you can take away from this film. First, it is a feast for the eyes, and Aquarians love being overwhelmed by beauty, especially strange beauty. Primarily, however, I want you to take note of the way Princess Ulan Iga rules, with care, tact, and thoughtfulness. She wields her power and might for good, and is the living embodiment of “do no harm, take no shit”. Reflect upon the ways you display your own power and ruminate on if you’re using it for the right reasons.

* Editor’s note: Truthfully, this film is difficult to find, but with some Aquarian sleuthing, I’m sure you’ll locate it. Consider it your birthday challenge.

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Pisces (February 18 - March 20): I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing (1987) directed by Patricia Rozema

Pisces, this month I have chosen a film that at first glance might highlight some of the stereotypically negative aspects of Pisces. Consider this film a cautionary yet whimsical tale for you to ponder and reflect upon. Pisces are often categorized into the “head in the clouds” camp of people, and the same can be said for the protagonist of Patricia Rozema’s film I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing. Polly (Sheila McCarthy) is a solitary woman, who lives alone and whose singular pleasure comes from her photography. Against the odds and despite her scarce resume and social aptitude, she lands a job at a private art gallery run by Gabrielle (Paule Baillargeon), as a secretary. While Gabrielle is preoccupied considering rekindling a romance with a former younger lover, Mary (Ann-Marie MacDonald), Polly anonymously submits some of her photographs to the gallery. To her dismay, Gabrielle brushes them off as “simpleminded”. Crushed, Polly quits her job and falls into a deep depressive state. I will leave the plot of the film there, though know, dear Pisces, the film ultimately gives Polly a glimpse of retribution. As you watch this film, consider your own sensitivities and tendencies to take everything personally, especially when involving creative work. Realize that the right people will always appreciate you and your craft, no matter how idiosyncratic and peculiar. Revel in your singularity and consider who you surround yourself with and if they can fully appreciate how unique you are.

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Aries (March 20 - April 20): The Day I Became A Woman (2000) directed by Marzieh Meshkini

Aries, this month, I have selected a film that both celebrates your independent, trail-blazing spirit, while also putting it into perspective that not everyone has the opportunity to turn the world on it’s head under certain circumstances. The Day I Became A Woman is the debut film for Marzieh Meshkini, a revolutionary Iranian filmmaker. The film chronicles three stories of different women all fighting for independence and identity in Iran. The first is a young girl, Hava (Fathema Cherag Akhtar), who is best friends with a boy she enjoys playing with. One day, her mother informs her that as she is becoming a woman, she may no longer play with boys and must begin wearing a chador, a garment intended for modesty, while outside the home. Hava must wait as the clock ticks away until noon, and she must take on the responsibilities of being a traditional Iranian woman. The second story focuses on Ahoo (Shabnam Toulouie), a married woman who embarks on a bicycle race. There is fire in her eyes as she pedals ahead, with her eye on the prize. Meanwhile, she is pursued by her husband on horseback, attempting to persuade her to stop the race, and presenting her with the ultimatum of divorce should she keep racing. As Ahoo defiantly rides along, her husband hires a mullah to divorce them once the race is over. After their divorce, other men in Ahoo’s community attempt to correct her of her ways of stepping out of what is tradition for women in her community. I will leave the third story a secret, but this film is at once hilarious, heartbreaking, and visually stunning throughout. I choose this for you Aries, because these women all embody the buoyant, defiant Aries spirit, but since most of our readers are Western women, I thought it would be beneficial for you to reflect upon the ways you are allowed to express your freedoms and ideas, as many women throughout the world are not, no matter how hard they fight.

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Taurus (April 20 - May 21): Sherrybaby (2006) directed by Laurie Collyer

Taurus, as we’ve mentioned time and time again, you’re stubborn. You are also sensualists who sometimes allow those urges usurp your practicality. This month, I chose for you a film in which a woman fighting her past demons of addiction to create a better life for herself and her daughter through Taurus determination and chutzpah. Sherrybaby directed by Laurie Collyer is the story of Sherry (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a recovering heroin addict recently released from prison. Facing many challenges, including living in a hostile halfway house, mending a tenuous relationship with her young daughter, and struggling to find employment, Sherry keeps her chin up for the most part, realizing she must rely on her resiliency and smarts to create the life she and her daughter deserve. Sherry begins attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in an attempt to stay sober and find support, but soon strikes up a relationship with a fellow recovering addict, Dean (Danny Trejo). In being with Dean, Sherry is once again tempted to start using, and must push aside her pride and stubbornness to ask for help from her family. Taurus, from this film, I hope you see that your determination is the most powerful weapon you have, but that your stubbornness and pride can also be your fiercest enemy.

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Gemini (May 21 - June 21): Raw (2016) directed by Julia Ducournau

Gemini, I often try to veer away from the overplayed “dualistic” nature of Geminis, but this month I decided to dive into it. Raw is a visually captivating, heady, at times confusing French horror film directed by Julia Ducournau. The film centers around Justine (Garance Marillier), a stringent and lifelong vegetarian about to matriculate to veterinary school, that her sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), also attends. As part of the bizarre hazing rituals of the school, freshmen are required to bathe in blood and eat raw rabbit’s kidneys. At first, Justine adamantly refuses to partake in the ritual, citing her strict diet, but Alexia eventually forces Justine to eat the flesh. The next morning, Justine finds her body covered in grotesque rashes, which a doctor writes off as food poisoning, and guilt creeps into to Justine’s psyche as she begins craving meat. This film is much more fun with less of the plot revealed, but suffice it to say Justine’s insatiable hunger goes beyond hamburgers and roast chicken. As she leans into her darker nature, she also becomes much more confident and outgoing, and this is why I chose this film for you, Gemini. Though much of the dualistic nature of Gemini is exaggerated, it is true for anyone, and particularly a sign as intellectually savvy as Gemini, that when we explore all parts of ourselves, even the dark parts, we learn more about ourselves and human nature at large. I encourage you to do some introspection this month and search for the untapped parts of yourselves. Let them have their day in the sun and see how you feel.

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Cancer (June 21 - July 22): Girls in Uniform (1931) directed by Leontine Sagan

Cancer, many a horoscope I have dwelled upon your notorious relationship to mothers and family. This month, I chose to dwell instead upon your penchant for the feminine and female relationships. Girls in Uniform centers around Manuela (Hertha Thiele), a young woman whose mother has died and whose father is in the army. She is sent to an elite all-girls boarding school. As soon as she enters the school, Manuela is exposed to the strictness of its headmistress and the overall austere atmosphere. The other students show her kindness and try to make her feel at home, but she feels out of place until she becomes close to a teacher, Fräulein von Bernburg (Dorothea Wieck), who exudes warmth and compassion towards all. Manuela develops romantic feelings for Fräulein von Bernburg, and eventually reveals her feelings to her, but they are rebuked by Fräulein von Bernburg, as she feels the relationship would be inappropriate and she does not want to make any of the other students feel less special. From here, Manuela experiences a downward emotional spiral and makes a series of rash decisions that ultimately leave her in jeopardy. Cancer, as you watch this stunning film, consider your own relationships, especially with other women. Wether you are queer or not, think about the relationships with the women in your life and how much emotional labor your perform for one another. Ponder also upon Cancer’s notorious moodiness, and think if there are ways in which you can quell your sometimes scattered emotions in response to relationships.

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Leo (July 22 - August 23): Fill the Void (2012) directed by Rama Burshtein

Leo, in the past I have focused on one of the primary qualities of Leos, your constant quest for attention. However, the best quality of Leos, in my opinion, is your unflappable loyalty, especially to your family and chosen family. So, this month, I have selected the powerful Israeli film Fill the Void. This film centers on Shira (Hadas Yaran), an 18-year old Hasidic Jewish girl living in Tel-Aviv, who is arranged to be wed to to a young man whom she fancies. Tragically, on Purim, Shira’s sister, Esther (Renana Raz) dies in childbirth. As the family is mourning, a decision is made by Shira’s parents that Shira will marry Esther’s widower, Yochay (Yiftach Klein), instead of her betrothed, in order to keep the family together. Despite Shira not loving Yochay and finding the prospect strange and somewhat macabre, eventually she goes along with the plan, knowing it will please her family, and willing herself to love Yochay on her own terms. Leo, as you watch this heartbreaking film, consider your own loyalties and ruminate on their healthiness. Are you being loyal out of loyalty’s sake? Remember that sometimes making choices that make you happy make others happy in the long run, as you are only able to please others once you have pleased yourself. Think of the airplane metaphor this month: put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else put on theirs.

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Virgo (August 23 - September 23): The White Ribbon (2009) directed by Michael Haneke

Virgo, I saw this film a decade ago when it first came out, and I am still haunted by its story and haunting imagery. This German film focuses on a fictional German village, which is devoutly Protestant and proper. Everything appears to be in order, but there is far more than meets the eye. I hesitate to reveal the plot in full, because it is such a delicious and twisted unravelling. I choose this film for you, Virgo, because my favorite aspect of Virgo is how on the outside you appear so put together; not a hair out of place, proper and even shy. However, internally, you possess a deep and creative inner world that you reveal to few. Let this film be a parable to you that when you hide behind a picture-perfect facade, that inner world can turn dark, and it is healthy to unleash those powerful thoughts externally in some way. I am exacting some Virgo coyness in my description of this film, but trust me when I say it is one of the most powerful films I have ever seen, and I think my Virgo darlings would love it even more.

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Libra (September 23 - October 23): Casting JonBenet (2017) directed by Kitty Green

Libra, as you likely already know, your sign is represented by the scales of justice. There is nothing that drives you up the wall more than injustices and crimes going unpunished. One of the most infamous unsolved crimes of all time is the murder of JonBenet Ramsey, and as the murder of an innocent child is incredibly touchy, the story has received surprisingly little film or television adaptations. Since Libras are also an air sign, the philosophers of the zodiac, I think you will enjoy and be perhaps disturbed by the Netflix documentary, Casting JonBenet, directed by Kitty Green. Not your typical documentary, the film is surreal and visually lush; and the premise is the casting a fictional narrative adaptation of the murder of Ramsey. Throughout the documentary, the prospective actors, dressed as the characters they would potentially be playing, give their own theories and commentary on the legendary case. Ultimately, the film is more about fame and pop-culture’s obsession with murder and violence than giving a family justice and peace. Libra, there is no homework for you this month, other than to watch something ridiculously cheerful or listen to some Lizzo after watching this film.

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Scorpio (October 23 - November 22): House of Tolerance (2011) directed by Bertrand Bonello

Scorpio, as I’m sure you’ve heard before, we tend to be the sex fiends of the zodiac. Some astrologers believe that each sign is connected to a part of the human anatomy, and wouldn’t you know it, Scorpios are associated with the genitals. In my personal experience and research, the overarching goal for Scorpios is intimacy, be it physical or emotional. We want to know people at the core of their existence. House of Tolerance is a film that explores intimacy and betrayal of intimacy in all its forms through the lens of sex work. This French period piece takes place in a high-class Parisian brothel in the early 1900’s and sheds light on relationships and human behavior through the eyes of the sex workers and their clients. Some clients come to the brothel to satiate pure carnal hunger, while others seek companionship and conversation, and the worst are after abusing women they see as having no agency. I won’t go into too many details, but look forward to gorgeous costumes, incredible production design, and stellar performances from Céline Sallette, Hafsia Herzi, Jasmine Trinca, and Adèle Haenel. Additionally, in terms of a story about sex workers coming from a male director, the film is surprisingly aware and non-shameful of the world’s oldest profession. Scorpio, as you watch this film, consider your own relationship to intimacy in all its forms, but particularly in your sexual relationships.

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Sagittarius (November 22 - December 21): Sleeping Beauty (2011) directed by Julia Leigh

Sagittarius, of all your friends, you are probably the one who freelances, bounces from job to job, or you’re just one of those people who never seem to work but always bring the bottle of champagne to the dinner party. Let Sleeping Beauty, an Australian film by Julia Leigh, be a cautionary tale that sometimes it is better to respect yourself and find a more stable source of income than to put yourself and your dignity at risk. The film centers around a college student, Lucy (in a wonderful performance by Emily Browning), struggling to make ends meet. She waitresses, volunteers at her university lab, and cares for an ill relative. In order to make more money, Lucy answers a classified ad to cater a secretive dinner party where she will wear lingerie and cater to wealthy older men. From this job, she is propositioned by the employer Clara (Rachael Blake), to be “promoted” to a sleeping beauty, a process in which she is given a tea that puts her to sleep, and sleeps in the nude, while male clients may do what they please with her, with the exception of anything overtly sexual. While this job allows Lucy to rent a nicer apartment and help her family, she begins a downward mental health spiral and loses much of her self-respect. Sagittarius, as you watch this film, be wary for ways in which you might put yourself in danger in order to not be tethered to a 9-5 job. Remember that self-respect and your safety is always paramount.

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Capricorn (December 21 - January 20): Please Give (2010) directed by Nicole Holofcenter

Capricorn, as we have discussed before, you are the workaholics of the zodiac. You define yourself by what you do, and what you do defines you. This month’s choice for you is Nicole Holofcenter’s dark comedy, Please Give, about a couple Kate (Katherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) who make their living in New York City by flipping antique furniture for far higher than what it’s worth. They seem to have no moral qualms with their job, and all has gone according to plan, until they buy the apartment adjacent to theirs, and the cantankerous occupant, Andra (Ann Guilbert) refuses to leave the apartment until her dying breath. Becoming acquainted with Andra and her family, granddaughters Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet), makes Kate and Alex; Kate in particular begin to question if their furniture flipping business is ethically sound, and if they have placed importance on profit over people. Capricorn, as you watch this film, I implore you to ask yourself the same question and ponder upon what is most important in your life.

Daisy Stackpole