Astrology News

September 2014 Newsletter

Nicholas Ray and James Dean filming Rebel

Neptune and the Midheaven in the Charts of Film Directors

by Tony Howard

After Steven's webinar on Martin Scorsese's chart last month, I got the idea to do a little research project on film directors. I was curious to see how Neptune would show up their charts and what their MCs would look like. As usual with this kind of research, I found myself quickly falling down an interesting rabbit hole, with surprising twists and turns. I thought I'd share a little of what I've found so far. Take it as food for further thought and research of your own if you find it interesting.

I started by compiling a list of my favorite directors, but soon after broadened my scope to include well known directors from “best of” lists found online. When looking at the MC, I wanted to use birth times I could trust, so I narrowed my list to 22 out of 82 directors who also have an AA rated birth time.

It's commonly taught that using astrology, we can look to the MC of the birth chart to name our potential career choices. The technique for this is usually to analyze the sign on the MC and then the ruler of the sign, its house placement and aspects. But look at the MC in a few charts and the limitations of this technique are quickly revealed. It's not because the technique doesn't work, it's because the teaching is often oversimplified. For instance, in my small sample of 22 directors, 11 of the 12 signs are represented. And the MC rulers are found in 11 of the 12 houses. For the most part, there is a broad distribution of signs and houses. (1) Even with such a small sample, this suggests that there isn't one sign or house that we can associate with the career of film director or it would already start to reveal itself here.

So if the MC doesn't predictably name our career, what does it signify? We can start to broaden our understanding by remembering that Steven's preferred keyword for the MC is “mission.” He teaches that what we do in our career and our soul's mission in life may very well be two separate things. For instance, we might have Cancer on the MC and be seen by others as playing a protective, nurturing or conservative role in the world through our actions and ways of being. But our career might be totally unrelated to that role.

Going further, the MC might better describe “how” we do our career instead of “what” our career is. If that's the case, we should be able to use the MCs in the charts of these directors to understand more about how they work, how they engage the public, what their reputation is, and their sense of mission. We might also find the MC heavily influencing the subject matter and style of their films, especially because it is through their films that they engage with the general public. For that reason, and with a large enough sample, we should see all of the signs, planets and houses represented in a complete study of the MC in director's charts.

Elevator to the GallowsHere's an example of a director whose MC shows up in his filmmaking style. French director Louis Malle is perhaps best known in the US for his films Atlantic City and My Dinner with Andre. But he got his start as a documentary film director. And his first forays into feature films (Ascenseur pour l'échafaud and The Lovers) are now commonly associated with the French New Wave style, which is known in part for its modern approach to realism and no-frills on-location shooting. His documentary leanings seem to have influenced his early narrative films.

Malle has Taurus on the MC, with Venus in Virgo ruling from the 1st house. This is a great example to work with, because Taurus on the MC doesn't jump out and say "film director," even though it's ruler Venus can be associated with creative endeavors. Malle's MC configuration is rich since the MC ruler Venus is sextile Mercury in Scorpio in the 3rd, and trine Saturn in Capricorn in the 5th. On top of that, there is a resonance with more Virgo-Scorpio sextiles in his chart that include the big 3: Sun, Moon and Ascendant. Malle’s Neptune lies conjunct his Virgo Ascendant, along with the South Node, Jupiter and Venus, all enhancing the strength and visibility of the Virgo archetype in his life. The Scorpio energy is just as dynamic, with his Moon in Scorpio conjunct his Scorpio Sun, forming 2 more sets of sextiles between Virgo and Scorpio. So the Virgo-Scorpio sextile excitation is especially pronounced here and is arguably the most important dynamic to understand in his chart.

The sextile is often downplayed as a “minor” aspect, but don’t underestimate it. The sextile creates a harmonious and stimulating energy that can be very fruitful in creative work. Two planets in sextile excite each other, like two friends who share the same passionate interest. Venus and Mercury together can express as gifted, lyrical communication skills, which we can see proof of in Malle’s work.

When the Virgo and Scorpio archetypes combine (here in sextile), they lend themselves easily to research, to exploring hidden or unseen things, people and motivations. As an earth sign, Virgo is attuned to the practical, while Scorpio is attuned to getting at the underlying truth of things. Together, they make a great match for a documentarian whose work is aimed at both. Mercury likes to report the news, and in Scorpio, if operating in its highest expression, it’s trying to report the truth.

Malle won an Academy Award for his first documentary film, Le Monde du Silence, co-directed with Jacques Costeau. Translated as The Silent World, it is “one of the first films to use underwater cinematography to show the ocean depths in color.” In this case we see a very literal convergence of the Virgo, Neptune and Scorpio archetypes, as the film for the first time reveals the actual workings of previously unexplored oceanic depths.

In another expression of Scorpio in Malle’s work, we need look no further than the English translated title of Malle’s first narrative: Elevator to the Gallows. Bridging the film noir and French New Wave (or Nouvelle Vague) styles, this film traces the low-expression Scorpionic plans of a pair of illicit lovers (Venus ruling the MC) who plot to kill the leading lady’s wealthy husband so they can be together. Even in this brief sentence describing the plot, we can see a convergence of the archetypes configured with Malle's MC. And we see the Venus emphasis in the titles of several of his films: The Lovers, Pretty Baby, A Very Private Affair, and Murmur of the Heart.

His film My Dinner with Andre is credited with helping spark greater interest in the independent film movement of the 1980s. Composed essentially of one long, diverse and at times deep, dinner conversation, we see Malle’s Mercury in Scorpio in perfect form engaging with the Taurus MC ruler Venus, as two friends enjoy rich interaction over a lovely dinner.

When I started looking at these charts, I expected to find Neptune configured with the MC in a higher number of charts, but that wasn't the case. What I did find is that so far without exception, even in my larger sample, Neptune is configured strongly in these director's charts in some way, whether it is through a major aspect with other planets (especially personal planets or one of the four angles), or through strong declination parallels or contraparallels. (3) Neptune, the planet of illusion, is associated with the cinema, and with narrative film especially, which takes us on imaginary journeys into fabricated worlds. (4) A director's Neptune placement and aspects can tell us something about how he or she conveys that illusion to the audience.

Rebel Without a CauseHere's just one quick example in which the director's natal Neptune placement sharply describes the subject of his most beloved film. Nicholas Ray is perhaps best known for his 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause, starring James Dean in the role of Jim Stark, a rebellious teenager who finds the value in home and family only after a chaotic and ultimately dangerous night out with his troubled friends.

Ray's Neptune is in Cancer in the 5th house opposite his Moon-Uranus conjunction in Capricorn in the 11th. In the film, Jim's tragic counterpart Plato looks up to Jim as a surrogate father figure (Capricorn in the 11th). In some tender and somewhat awkward moments, we see Jim accept the role, providing much-needed nurturing to his friend (Moon in the 11th).

The film tracks a night of classic teenage Uranian rebellion in which Jim and his good-hearted friends are testing boundaries, trying to discover who they really are outside the home. But along the way they encounter a group of delinquents with less-than-admirable motivations, resulting in a night of shock and unforeseen tragedy (Uranus), which ultimately serve to lead Jim into a deeper understanding (and acceptance) of home and family (Cancer and the Moon).

Although Neptune seems to show up strongly in director's charts, it isn't the only planet that will describe their work. We'll usually see the whole chart at play, and this makes sense. Artists tend to work out personal struggles and complexities through their work.

Using just the Sun, the Moon and the nodes of the Moon, Steven gave us a closer look at some of Martin Scorsese's unresolved karmic issues revealed in his birth chart. Though the subject matter of most of his films is dark, using the birth chart we can also understand his films as tools for his own healing—safe ways to express and work through painful unconscious patterns. And he does so in a way that sheds light on those patterns for anyone drawn to watch his films.

Tony HowardIf you didn't get a chance to attend Steven's webinar, we now have an audio version ready for download. The audio version includes the slides from the presentation. Due to some congestion on Google's end, the video sync is slightly off, so while we make it available for you here, we recommend the audio version instead.

Until next time.

Tony Howard

End Notes:

(1) There are some interesting patterns that emerge, but the patterns are small, and with such a small sample it's really not worth giving them too much heed. For instance, in this sample, the most common MC is Aquarius. But the trend is still small – the Aquarian MCs make up only 19% of the total.

(2) Wikipedia

(3) The aspects and orbs I'm using in my research: conjunctions, squares, oppositions, trines, and sextiles. I'm using a 3° with trines and sextiles, and a wider orb of up to 8° with conjunctions, squares or oppositions to the Sun and Moon, MC or Ascendant. I'm looking at parallels and contraparallels that are within 2° when below 20° N or S, and within one half a degree when above 20°.   

(4) It's interesting to note that movies were created only after Neptune was discovered in 1846, about the same time photography was invented around 1839.


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