The film Us and the astrological Pluto

The film Us and the astrological Pluto

Some time back, I wrote a review of the film Arrival, a superior science-fiction Hollywood blockbuster. At the time, I was surprised that no-one (apparently absolutely no-one!) noticed that the whole plot was rather obviously based on the language of astrology and the meaning it might have for humanity. Well, blow me down and swipe me sideways with an old ephemeris, the same kind of thing has happened again.

Early last year, I toddled down to my local cinema to watch a film that was getting enthusiastic and interesting reviews. To say I was blown away by Us would be an understatement. Director and producer Jordan Peele’s blockbuster horror movie is not only a brilliantly made and clever story, it is also packed full of references to the astrological archetype of Pluto. And as before, no-one seems to have noticed, including astrologers who have written about Us on the internet.

There are many twists and turns, some of the details of which can easily be missed on first, second or even third viewing. The story starts in 1986, with a young girl on holiday with her parents in Santa Cruz, California. She wanders off by herself on the beach and stumbles across a funhouse. “Find yourself”, it reads outside. In she goes to a hall of mirrors, where something happens that ensures the girl will never be the same again.

Fast forward to the present – an idyllic happy family scenario, so idyllic that you know almost immediately that things are going to go horribly wrong. The now grown-up girl and main character Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o) has a sense of foreboding as she, her husband (Winston Duke) and two children (Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex) head for a holiday near the same beach in Santa Cruz. A few events and co-incidences give hints of the darkness to come.

Things really take off with the appearance of another family bearing an uncanny resemblance to the Wilsons. They stand menacingly at the bottom of the driveway to the house where the Wilsons are staying, with unknown intentions. The Wilson family are soon violently confronted by these bitter, dark and twisted versions of themselves – their shadow selves. Just to make the subject clear for any astrologers watching the film, the two children of the doppelganger family are named Umbrae (shadow) and Pluto.

Adelaide’s double, Red, explains that the scarred and disfigured shadow family are from an underground world (sounding Plutonian enough yet?) who share a soul with their counterparts. While Adelaide and her family were loved and happy above ground, the shadow family experienced only darkness and suffering in a subterranean alternative reality. “I was tested by God” says Red, “We are Americans”.

Lupita Nyong’o

The film Us is multi-layered and about many things. Under the guise of a “horror movie”, the film is a deep exploration of class, privilege and what it means to be human in American society today. Black power is a key focus. There is a great tragicomic moment when another shadow family are killing to the accompaniment of Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys, which after a computer’s misinterpretation of a cry for help, turns into a song by black rappers N.W.A.

The film’s world premiere was on 8th March 2019, the follow-up to Jordan Peele’s also huge Get Out (2017). Given that the story of Us is highly influenced by Pluto and its many meanings and manifestations, it’s interesting to observe a couple of astrological correlations. The explosive, dark and profoundly transformative Saturn-Pluto conjunction in Capricorn was close (within a 3 to 4 degree orb) at the time of the film’s release. This continued to be the case for the following few months, as Us made its considerable impact on cinema audiences. The film has played a role in the collective shift of consciousness that we are all experiencing under Saturn-Pluto.

Visionary director Jordan Peele, Sun in Pisces

Secondly, Piscean visionary director Jordan Peele (born 21st February 1979, time unknown) has a very close natal Venus in Capricorn square Pluto in Libra. Transiting Saturn at 18 degrees Capricorn formed an exact conjunction to his Venus with a square to natal Pluto when Us came out in March 2019. What better way to work out the extreme tension of such a close natal square? With Venus in Capricorn, Peele has done well financially too – the film grossed $255.1 million worldwide from a budget of $20 million.

Bring on the next astrological Hollywood blockbuster!

The above article was originally published in the January/February 2020 issue of the Astrological Journal magazine https://www.facebook.com/AstrologicalJournal Thank you to editor Victor Olliver. This is the bimonthly publication of the Astrological Association http://www.astrologicalassociation.com dedicated to educating the public on astrology since 1958.

Consultations and readings available at https://www.timburnessastrologer.co.uk

Arrival – a film about astrology?

The film Arrival appeared on mainstream cinema screens towards the end of last year and has been widely acclaimed as the best science fiction film for many years. It has been both a critical and commercial success. Although there are perhaps one or two clichés near the beginning, Arrival is far more sophisticated than the average film about aliens visiting Earth. There is an unusual depth and intelligence throughout, as themes of love, grief, memory and the passing of time are explored. What does it mean to be human, what is our purpose? The film is nicely paced, the award-winning music is suitably haunting, there is often a sense of magical wonder. Leading actress Amy Adams is outstanding.

Directed by Dennis Villeneuve, Arrival is an adaptation of a 1998 short story Story Of Your Life by Ted Chiang. Amongst many other things, it explores the idea that language determines thought and perception. The concept of linguistic relativity has been linked to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, first published in 1940 by linguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Lee Whorf. Philosophers such as Wittgenstein (“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.”) have explored similar territory. I had never come across Chiang before but one review had this to say about him:- “If there is a single recurrent theme in Ted Chiang’s work, it’s the attempt to square the circle between human fantasies of belief, and the perceived certainties of a rational, scientific worldview. There’s a strong sense in Chiang’s work that he sees conflicts of faith v reason, or freedom v determinism, as illusionary. That if we can simply see clearly enough, all conflicts give way to harmony. Chiang’s rigour and logic take him to a point of mysticism.” (1.)

After a brief but important introduction, the film begins in the style of many other science fiction films about aliens landing on Earth. The spaceships hover in twelve locations around the world and there is worldwide panic as humanity wonders what to do next. Some strange sounds are recorded at the spaceship that has arrived in Montana and the American government calls on linguistics professor Louise Banks (Amy Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to lead an investigative team. “You approach language like a mathematician”, Ian says to Louise at one point.

To the accompaniment of a drone that would not be out of place in a Tibetan Buddhist ceremony, Louise and her crew make their way down a tunnel in the nearest alien spaceship. This begins a series of attempts to communicate with the Heptapods, as the aliens become known. They are more interested in visual communication rather than sound.

IdentifyingLogograms

In Arrival, each logogram is divided into 12 sections, just like an astrological horoscope. As a person learns the alien language, their perception and experience of time is altered.

For astrologers, this is where it starts to get really interesting. In reference to the twelve spaceships, we have already been told that the twelve fit together to form a whole. The aliens now gradually begin to communicate by drawing a series of circular puffs of smoke in mid-air, each of them containing specific visual blobs that carry highly complex information. These circular patterns bear a striking resemblance to horoscopes, both visually and in their function. The alien language of the Heptapods is nonlinear, with no beginning or end – the whole of a particular sentence or idea is communicated at once, not in a progressive order. The past, the present and the future are presented as one.

Louise and her team set about examining the meaning of the circles, as do investigative teams in other countries. Problems emerge when different conclusions are drawn about exact interpretations of one particular message. Does it mean “Give technology now” or “Use weapon now” and is this a threat of some kind? This leads to a global crisis point and the final scenes of the film, when it becomes clear that Louise’s perception of time and reality has become altered by learning “The Universal Language”.

Researching on the internet, I have not been able to find any acknowledgement of astrological knowledge in relation to the film or the original story. It has been suggested that the alien circles may have been inspired by a Zen calligraphic symbol. Presumably, the number of striking similarities to astrology must therefore be a co-incidence. A visual language based around circles and symbols, a language that communicates complex information and changes our perception of time, a language which when learnt can change our experience of what it means to be human in the world. That certainly sounds familiar to serious astrologers! See this excellent film and draw your own conclusions, or lack of them.

  1. “Ted Chiang, the science fiction genius behind Arrival”, The Guardian, 11th November, 2016.

The original version of the above article appeared in the March/April 2017 of The Astrological Journal, the flagship bimonthly magazine of the Astrological Association.

Consultations and readings available at https://www.timburnessastrologer.co.uk