Astrology: Film: Review: ‘Citizenfour’ (2014)



The most vibrant movie characters, fictional or biographical, tend to carry the most riveting archetypes. Citizenfour, Laura Poitras’ documentary about Edward J. Snowden, falls – rather, bursts – into that category of memorable players. And, like most of the U.S. population unaware of how its government was massively breaching citizens’ privacy, Poitras begins her project in the dark.

In early 2013 a person initially contacts Poitras by email, self-identifying only as citizenfour, and informing her of certain requirements going forward. These include his not wanting her to be deterred from widely releasing material which he will soon reveal, even if he, in so doing, becomes implicatable himself.

Hell of a way to get a filmmaker’s attention.

In June, a hotel room in Hong Kong becomes the meeting place for Poitras and this person, Edward J. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, who has a deep-seeded Saturnine commitment to revealing how that agency built an infrastructure to intercept digital, analog and device-based communications and information disseminated and shared by this country’s citizens.

Soft-spoken, intelligent, thorough and cautious, Snowden clearly knows what he’s getting himself into, going so far as telling Poitras “to paint a target on my back,” because he wants to protect people he had been working with. On the other hand, he doesn’t want to be a distraction – the focus, he says, should be on getting the information out. In short, he’s more willing to risk imprisonment than to lose intellectual freedom.

At these Hong Kong meetings he shares documents with select journalists like Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill who will serve as his mouthpieces. What transpires is anything but a screed. This is about watching a 29-year-old guy keep to a meticulous schedule that will most assuredly label him a traitor and turn him into a wanted man.

A chilling segment in the documentary that’s tied to an Occupy Wall Street security-training session – the instructor explains the phenomenon of “linkability,” in which one’s Metrocard, debit card and mobile phone can create an ongoing map of a person’s physical movements – makes Snowden’s decisions to spill considerably more comprehensible.

If the NSA personifies the mythic Plutonic underworld of control, secrecy and obsession, Snowden takes on the mantle of Pluto-fueled revealer of secrets and death-bringer to old structures requiring new foundations. Like the NSA, he’s unabashedly ruthless. And when you throw in Neptune’s Idealist and Uranus’ Prometheus figure who brings fire to the people, he’s pretty much got the collective covered. At a more personal level, Snowden is the Communicator, tied to Mercury, who adopts a Trickster-grade delivery system for revealing the truth.

Poitras uses a computer-monitor screen-grab, a binary slap in the face, to open Citizenfour. However, she ends her documentary on an unexpectedly personal note bearing a sly underbelly. We peer, from the outside, into the Moscow apartment where Snowden and his long time partner now live. Its interiors are burnished and golden, and there’s a pot on the stove puffing steam. It’s home. And the camera is spying.

Archetype: Informer, Liberator, Idealist, Whistleblower, Transformer, Communicator                                                                                                                                                                                                               Astrology Archetype: ☿♄ ♅ ♆ ♇ (Mercury, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto)

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