|Memory is a fragile thing, but we are totally reliant on it to relate to our individual world. There are many who through disease, accident or old age actually lose their capacity to retain events in memory, and though they can recall old long-term memories, they are unable to remember what happened just a few minutes previously.
Which means, if you had no short-term memory, you would now be wondering what you are reading.
You would go back over the last paragraph, just to get it to stick in your mind, and you would reach here again, but it will not have stuck. If you think you could seek solace in television, books or film, this would not be the case, because you would not have the ability to follow the plot. But you would really like TV adverts, which just lasted a minute or so. You would remember those with whom you had had a long term relationship, but new people coming into your life would be forgotten minutes later, and each time you met, the meeting would have all the freshness of the first meeting. You would have to be told when it was time to wash, brush your teeth, eat, otherwise you might simply repeat these actions after a few minutes had elapsed.
Loss of Short-term Memory
How then, would you be able to live a productive life? This is the subject of the extraordinary film Memento , in which the last memory of the main character, Leonard, was the discovery of his wife on the bathroom floor, murdered and raped. The shock of seeing this took away his short-term memory, and the film starts with him trying to unravel the mystery of who killed his wife, so that he can exact bloody revenge. The problem is that he cannot remember people he has talked to in the process of his investigation, what they have said, or when they said it. He cannot remember where he is staying, or what car he is driving. But he has a system, which consists of writing notes and taking polaroid pictures of his car, people and places and annotating the pictures. When he comes across an extremely important fact, he has it tattooed on his skin, engraved in body memory for all time.
A Film that goes Backwards
Memento starts where it ends, and ends where it starts, because the delight of the plot is that it goes backwards. It opens violently with a polaroid picture of a dead man. The picture fades, gets sucked back into the camera, then the man’s death is enacted backwards, and this reverse scenario sets the scene for a film portrayed in short clips, each subsequent clip preceding the one before in time. This is a retrograde feast. By the end of the film we see just how great the consequences of short-term memory loss can be. For in this film, nothing is certain, except that Leonard’s condition is being exploited by certain unscrupulous people.
The Influence of Retrograde Planets
As an astrologer, reality seemed even more distorted, for the horoscope for my own personal viewing of the film perfectly reflected the nature of its plot. The late Scorpio ascendant clearly illustrates what this film is about: revenge. The originality of the film unfolding backwards is shown by the ruler Mars, retrograde in the first house, and opposing Mercury, retrograde in the 7th. Leonard is Mars, and note how Mars has conjoined Chiron, where it stationed before going retrograde. This man carried the wound of the trauma of his wife’s death, and his wounded mind led him on an odyssey of blind and hopeless revenge, for, even if he succeeded in finding the murderer, and killed him, how would he remember the accomplishment? Mars has already conjoined Pluto, and will return to 15.06 Sagittarius to almost make the conjunction with Pluto again. Almost, because Pluto is also retrograde and has by this time slipped back from 15 to 13 degrees Sagittarius. There is no final solution.
Sorrow and Revenge
During the film, his wife is a shadowy figure whom he revisits in flashbacks, sometimes alarmingly changing the details supposedly engraved in his memory. He is driven by the tragedy of loss, and the longing for a supposed ideal marriage, and this is shown by the Venus/Neptune square. It is interesting to see how Neptune and Venus configure with the Mercury/Sun/Jupiter stellium opposing Mars by semi- and sesquisquare, connecting the theme of lost love with revenge. In actual fact at the moment the film started all these planets configured with the MC/IC axis with squares and half-squares. Retrograde Mercury (exactly opposite Chiron – how about that for a damaged mind?) is about to conjoin the Sun, with both sesquiquadrate Neptune.
The Stellium in Gemini
The movie is punctuated by the flash of the polaroid camera “capturing” reality, the flash of the Sun, and the subsequent etching of the words of Mercury on the photograph. All this in the pursuit of a supposed justice, for Jupiter is also in the picture, still touched by its previous opposition to Pluto. Leonard is the judge and executioner, but his mind is flawed, just as Jupiter’s capacity is flawed in Gemini, where it is in exile. What Leonard simply cannot do is create an overall picture – his world is circumscribed by his scribblings and his pictures but he cannot make a connection between them or gain any kind of time perspective. A nice detail is the tattoos, which ultimately cover his body, as he frantically adds new “facts” to his most trusted memory bank – his skin. What better expression for Saturn in Gemini?
But wait! The film had been showing in Copenhagen for some time, and had been seen at European film festivals last year. For what possible reason can the horoscope for my viewing the film with a fellow astrologer be so apt and accurate? What if we had gone to see the film a couple of months later with a completely different set of aspects? Of course, a film like Memento has its own astrological dynamics and, as might be expected, its release in America fully accorded with appropriate astrological patterns. The first public showing in America (Note 1.) was on March 16th 2001 when it was released simultaneously in New York and Los Angeles to rave reviews. This was the day when a retrograde Venus was returning to activate the Mars/Pluto conjunction in Sagittarius, triggered by the Moon, so the theme of love, justice, murder and revenge was equally powerful. It is interesting to note that Mercury had at this time almost returned to the point at which it went retrograde in February at zero degrees Pisces square Jupiter in Gemini, a pattern which also reflects the ambiguity and confusion which characterises the film.
The amazing congruence between the film and the astrology of the moment, reminds me of other episodes when I have watched a TV film, and the film has been so perfectly in tune with the planetary positions of the time. In a way it’s very understandable when a broadcast reflects astrological events so well, because it is a collective event. It’s a bit more worrying, when my partner rents a video, and that also encapsulates the astrology of the moment. That is simply a personal event. As an avid follower of planetary movement, I enjoy seeing the changes in my environment as a planet changes sign. On one occasion, as Mars moved into Gemini, I left my house, caught the morning train, and found myself sitting next to a man in jogging trousers, who was opposite another man in identical jogging trousers, identical T-shirt, identical faces… they were twins.
Your World and Your Beliefs
And I couldn’t help asking myself if the show was put on for my benefit, for I was the one looking for a sign from the heavens about Mars in Gemini, and twins were provided. There are not enough twins around to put this show on for everyone, but then not everyone’s chosen belief is astrology. In India there is an astrological tradition in which horoscopes are inscribed on palm leaves. Analyses and predictions were written – thousands of years ago – describing the life and karma of every seeker who visits the astrologer. A common question the astonished visitor poses to the astrologer is, “How can the lives of everyone on Earth be contained on these palm leaves”, and this prompts the answer from the astrologer: “Goodness gracious, not everyone… we only have the horoscopes for the people who come to ask”.
The Power of Belief
For Leonard the defining belief was revenge, but without memory he could not enjoy it. Driving along in a stolen Jaguar sports car, which he had come to decide was his at some point during the film, he desperately asks himself, “The world doesn’t suddenly disappear when you close your eyes, does it?” Well, no it doesn’t, but it’s something you can never be sure of. Astrologers who would like to feel most attuned to their beliefs and to the universe, could perhaps enrich their lives by choosing to do things which best reflect the astrological influences of the time. If Mercury squares Saturn, then applying oneself to serious study for the day would be effective. If the Moon in Virgo squares Pluto, then an hour’s radical clean out would be just the job. Make that bank appointment to get a mortgage when the Moon in Cancer sextiles Venus in Taurus … the bank manager is just waiting to lend money, so you may as well be the lucky one! You have to take your beliefs very seriously indeed, because the universe does.
Adrian Ross Duncan