If art is the beautiful lie, can love also be ushered into existence by duplicity? That’s the question at the center of Magic in the Moonlight, a movie inspired by early 20th century Europe’s fascination with spiritualism, seances and communicating with the dead.
Directed and written by Woody Allen, Magic in the Moonlight is set in 1928 and opens in Berlin, where Chinese-costumed Stanley Crawford (Colin Firth) plies his magician’s trade – he goes by the stage name Wei Ling Soo – to great acclaim. Backstage, we see him for the arrogant, insufferable prick he is. On the other hand, despite his own Mercurial trickery, Stanley is logical to a fault and takes great pleasure in spotting and debunking the multitude of fake spiritualists flooding the continent.
One day, his close childhood friend – and rival magician – Howard (Simon McBurney) presents Stanley with a proposition to head to the south of France. There, a young woman named Sophie Baker (Emma Stone), traveling with her mother (Marcia Gay Harden), is causing quite a stir as a mystic. Howard is convinced Sophie is the real deal. But would Stanley, the ultimate spotter of fake spiritualists, weigh in with his opinion? The trip to France would provide Stanley the opportunity to visit his beloved aunt (Eileen Atkins), and he agrees to visit the estate where Sophie’s ukulele-strumming boyfriend (Hamish Linklater) and his mother (Jacki Weaver) will host Sophie’s visit.
Stanley – he does not believe in the spiritual realm and has remarked, “A pretty face never hurt a swindler” – is suddenly faced with figuring out whether Sophie’s “mental vibrations” make her guileless and gifted, or a grifter.
Magic in the Moonlight, although frothy and talky, has at its core some serious archetypal foundations. Stanley is determined to weed out and uncover, in Plutonian fashion, that which is hidden: Neptunian deception and that planet’s hallmark transcendent world. Sophie also embraces Mercury, as she communicates with the dead, also represented by Pluto. Of course, it’s Stanley’s goal to Mercurially spill the beans on Sophie’s Plutonic, outer-realm endeavors that occur beyond the veil of logic.
At this stage of his long career, Allen knows all about the power of seduction of Neptune which rules film and the pleasures of his chosen medium (pun intended). Sure, he’s playing with us. But two can play the game.
Archetype: Deceiver, Grifter
Astrology Archetype: ☿ ♆ ♇ (Mercury, Neptune, Pluto)