September 23 – October 23
CINEMASCOPES (cinema + horoscopes) approaches film through an astrological lens, and vice versa. Published in seasonal instalments, the series explores how astrology can be made intelligible through film, and considers how the energy of each astrological season might be applied to how we watch and make films.
Welcome to the second air sign of the year — Libra. It’s a doozy.
Being ‘hard to grasp’ is typical of all air signs, but Libras can be particularly inaccessible. From the “plastic toy-like quality” of Hugh Jackman to the terrifying wellness of Gwyneth Paltrow (and even to Zac “I intend to reveal nothing about myself during this interview” Efron), there’s something vaguely unsettling about Libra energy.
But as with all signs, there are exceptions to the rule. Some Libras — like Buster Keaton, Will Smith, Guillermo del Toro, Alicia Silverstone, John Krasinski, Fran Drescher and Spike Jonze — don’t carry such a strong aura of Lovecraftian unknowability. And there’s Libras that hover somewhere in the middle; people like Naomi Watts, Julie Andrews, Hari Nef, Olivia Newton-John, and Kate Winslet — friendly and somewhat accessible, yet still shrouded in their Hollywood glamour and mystique, ever camera-ready.
Like I said, hard to grasp.
Beyond Star Wars (we’ll circle back to this) and the marriage of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones, there aren’t many notable Libra collaborations to speak of. If you’re desperate, watch The Beach Bum (2019) for Libras Zac Efron and Snoop Dogg (do they even have any scenes together?), or — if you’re really desperate — Between Two Ferns: The Movie (2019) for a brief interaction between Libras Zach Galifinakis and Brie Larson. In general, though, Libras seem to stay away from each other — maybe it’s an ego-clash thing (see below).
Check your ego
One of the flowers associated with Libra is the narcissus, “representing rebirth, inner reflection, inspiration, and on the negative side, vanity”. Libra’s air-sign breeziness and detachment can risk coming off as cold and superficial, or impede their ability to focus on others. It’s perhaps best explained by this exchange:
David Fincher used the egotistical side of Libra energy to great effect in The Social Network (2010) with his inspired casting of Libra actor Jesse Eisenberg to embody a self-involved, fictionalised Mark Zuckerberg. As our last Cinemascope discovered, Fincher is no amateur when it comes to astrologically astute casting.
(Incidentally, the real-world Zuckerberg has created a Facebook cryptocurrency, and it’s called — you guessed it — Libra. Clearly an homage to Jesse’s fine work.)
Like Lizzie McGuire’s loud little cartoon self (Hilary Duff is a Libra), a strong ego is often present under this sign. When this quality is taken to extremes, we get The Room (2003), starring, written, produced and directed by megalomaniacal Libra filmmaker Tommy Wiseau. Take its disastrous production as a warning: don’t let your ego get in the way this season.
The ever-confident Nicolas Winding Refn, who has never shied away from making grandiose statements about his work.
“Creativity is narcissism. Creativity is falling in love with oneself as you create. It’s self-indulgent.”
Get off the fence — or don’t
Libra is symbolised by the scales, which can represent balance, but can also mean indecision or the inability to ‘pick a side’. They can get into the habit of vacillating, and isn’t being too ambivalent its own form of imbalance? Yes, it’s good to consider both sides of a situation, and to weigh things up, but don’t let Libra season sully your ability to be decisive. Air signs are bad enough with commitment as it is.
That said, in the interests of balance, let’s consider this trait from another angle. Inconstancy can be a great quality when it’s used sparingly and consciously: Libras’ ability to play ‘Devil’s advocate’ may offer them a more open-minded, unrestricted perspective. As Libra writer F. Scott Fitzgerald once wrote: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
Don’t be contrarian just for the sake of it — rather, second-guess yourself and the world around you with deliberate intent. Take it from Jenny Holzer: CONFUSING YOURSELF IS A WAY TO STAY HONEST.
Jeff Goldblum, the king of waffling.
“I, uh, don’t think I’m, y’know, so different than your average, y’know, average.”
Do it justice
The scales also represent justice; balance symbolising equality — see the famous Lady Justice statue, in which she carries a set of scales. Think Libras Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Felicity Jones in their respective Star Wars roles — a film series so obsessed with good, evil, and balance. Think protective Libra Sigourney Weaver taking justice into her own hands in the Alien series. Most importantly: think about your own work.
If you’re a filmmaker, what are you doing to ensure that there is balance — be it aesthetic or political — both in front of and behind the camera? What about the justice to be pursued outside of the filmmaking process? Hold this thought at the forefront of your mind this season. Join a union or something. Stand up for what you believe in.
Recommended viewing: The Umbrella Academy, in which all six main characters are Libras raised to be crime-fighting superheroes (a real justice league, if you will). You may also notice that they do not get along — reinforcing my theory that Libras don’t play well together.
In closing — Libra and film
This might be a strange season. The guy who created The X-Files is a Libra, you know what I mean? But go with it. Be the Mulder, and go with it. Then reflect on it later with biting wit, Carrie Fisher-style. And like Mulder, find ways that your uncertainty can be your superpower. Let it lead you down unusual creative paths. Then, when it’s useful, tap into the self-aggrandizement of Nicolas Winding Refn, and make some ostentatious work — but don’t overdo the arrogance or the wavering. Through it all, avoid extremes. Through it all, remember balance. Don’t tip the scales.
Ivana Brehas (a.k.a. Joaquin Shenix) is a writer and filmmaker living in Naarm (Melbourne). She has written for Dazed, Much Ado About Cinema, The Big Issue, 4:3 and more. She also makes lil videos. Contact her at www.ivanabrehas.com.