Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘Big Eyes’ (2014)

The Weinstein Company

The Weinstein Company

If eyes are the windows to the soul, you can’t get a better view of the psyche than by peering through the gigantic orbs painted on despondent-looking waifs’ faces by Margaret Keane half a century ago. Big Eyes, a movie about Keane’s creations which were both jarring and evocative, explores these sad wide-eyed wonders as the creative self-expression of the artist, as well as a metaphor for the artist’s emotional pain and confusion.

The movie, directed by Tim Burton, opens with Margaret (Amy Adams) fleeing her marriage, daughter in hand, and heading for San Francisco. Soon she’s got a bit of sidewalk space at an outdoor Sunday-artists’ area, selling her unique “big crazy eyes” take on human portraiture. Nearby, Walter Keane (Christoph Waltz), a chatty unctuous painter of dime-a-dozen Parisian travel scenes, takes notice of the art and the woman. Before you can squeeze a mound of color onto a palette, they’re married.

Walter, a born hustler, makes a deal with a bistro owner to rent basement wall space on which he hangs some of his wife’s paintings. The pieces wind up selling and, thanks to Walter’s ingenuity, a Keane cottage industry is born, a Keane art gallery opens, and original artwork beget posters that can’t be printed fast enough. There’s one catch: Walter has declared himself to be “Keane” – “Keane means me,” he says – who’s painted these canvases and has persuaded Margaret to go along with his subterfuge.

Big Eyes explores the realm of archetypal Neptune, associated with deceptive, artistic, egoless, self-effacing and self-denigrating tendencies. Margaret, having escaped one marriage, often seems afraid of her own shadow and, accordingly, behaves like a doormat. Walter, meanwhile, is concealing an even uglier secret.

The movie’s conclusion, set in a court room, is a welcome opportunity to right years of misrepresentation, as Margaret finally owns up to her gift. Big Eyes switches between the definitiveness of the “Keane” signature and the hazy Neptunian blur of the works’ true provenance. Margaret’s word – “mirage” – couldn’t be more on the money, which she finally, with a healthier ego at her disposal, claims as her own.

Archetype: Artist, Liar, Gullibility

Astrology Archetype: ♆ (Neptune)


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