Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘Indignation’ (2016)

Roadside Attractions

Roadside Attractions

Indignation, typically a strong reaction to an offense, also suggests a sense of unworthiness or feeling like an outlier uncomfortable in one’s own skin. Written and directed by James Schamus, the film Indignation, based on Philip Roth’s novel, brings together two non-mainstream individuals who, precisely because of their inability to fit into their culture, fall for each other.

It’s 1951 and Marcus Messner (Logan Lerman) is an extremely bright young Jewish man from New Jersey whose parents – an incessantly worrying mother Esther (Linda Emond) and kosher butcher father Max (Danny Burstein) – trust that their son’s scholarship to Winesburg College, in Ohio, will keep him from being drafted to serve in the Korean War. Iconoclastic and an atheist, Marcus finds himself in an academic environment which, much to his frustration, demands attendance at chapel. Not a joiner, he also dismisses an invitation by the president of a Jewish fraternity (Pico Alexander) to join. He doesn’t get along with his roommates, either.

Exuding a sense of intellectual superiority, Marcus’s inflexibility gets him noticed by the school’s no-nonsense dean Hawes Caudwell (Tracy Letts), who cites the student’s “inability to adjust” and isolation. One prolonged chat, with Caudwell in total control, is a verbally choreographed ordeal that smacks of inquisitorial entrapment.

Roadside Attractions

Roadside Attractions

As if we need more validation of Marcus’s inability to fit in – partly a result of cultural anti-Semitism and the young man’s own arrogance – the film brings in Olivia Hutton (Sarah Gadon). A beautiful, well spoken and well-to-do young woman, Olivia is also mentally unwell. She’s also perceived as “different,” for reasons that include a scar on her wrist. It’s not a stretch to say the outlier lovebirds are mirror images of each other. And, not surprisingly, Esther notices the mark upon first meeting the girl. Suddenly there’s an add-on to Mom’s desperation about keeping Marcus out of the war, as she sees him being metaphorically drafted into a romance whose riskiness is also death-fueled. In her own way, Esther becomes as ruthless as Caudwell.

The movie, which is book-ended by glimpses of the youngsters’ fates, focuses on the Thinking Rebel archetype whose thought processes – either through over intellectualization or medical imbalance – are too threatening to those in one’s immediate surroundings. As Marcus’s overprotective father warns, it’s “the tiny mistakes that can have consequences.” Not being a Saturnine realist is one of them.

Archetype: Thinker. Rebel. Intellectual. Realist.

Astrology Archetype: ☿ ♄ ♅ (Mercury, Saturn, Uranus)

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