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

Focus Features

Focus Features

Occasionally real-life events enter the fray adorned with the sort of proverbial beacons that signal their relevance and even fatedness. The story captured in the quiet, gem-of-a-film Loving, written and directed by Jeff Nichols, is one such piece of historicity.

It’s 1958 and the protagonists are Richard and Mildred Loving, with their surname suggesting that true affection is worth fighting for, even if it means going to the Supreme Court.

Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton) is white and his pregnant girlfriend, Mildred Jeter (Ruth Negga), black. With no options to marry in their native segregated state of Virginia, they tie the knot in Washington, D.C., and return back home. Tellingly, Richard posts the marriage license above their bed, as though to proclaim the legality of their union. This does not, however, stop the sheriff (Marton Csokas) from arresting them. A year later, for disobeying Virginia’s Racial Integrity Law, the couple is sentenced to a year in jail, which the judge is willing to suspend if they leave the state with no option to return for 25 years.

The Lovings decide to head back to D.C. to live with Mildred’s kin. By 1963 – they’re now parents to three young children – Mildred has heard about a pro-civil-rights politician named Robert F. Kennedy, who refers their case to the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU provides the couple access to attorney Bernard Cohen (Nick Kroll) and Philip Hirschkop (Jon Bass).

Focus Features

Focus Features

Fueled by the lawyers’ enthusiasm, the Lovings are presented with another opportunity: a chance to go public, aided by a spread in Life magazine titled “The Crime of Being Married,” courtesy of photographer Grey Villet (Michael Shannon). In June 1967, the Summer of Loving, as it were, the Supreme Court struck down all anti-miscegenation laws as unconstitutional.

Throughout its run time, Loving presents its disturbing give-and-take between archetypal laws – the Saturnine glue that holds societies together, even as that adhesive ceases to possess the power to bind – and archetypal Uranian revolutionizing, rebellion and upheaval, whose urges are to throw down those very laws.

In the legal case of the Lovings, Uranian discharge occurs within the framework of Saturnine stability. However, the movie’s emotional powder keg is brilliantly punctuated by bricks. Richard is a bricklayer whose one goal in life is to provide for Mildred and build her a house with his bare hands. His is an end game of honorability, and whose heading to work daily underscores the Saturnine qualities of hard work, persistence and discipline. Bricks symbolizes foundation-making, as well as potential weapons or threats. (Richard finds a copy of the Life photo spread in his car, wrapped around a single block.)

The Lovings’ dark Saturnine story – one of separation and confinement – inspires Mildred’s belief that, by going to court, they might lose the small battles but win the big war. In the end, their nearly decade-long ordeal – personal Saturn defeating a collective one – allowed freedom to create its own groove.

Archetype: Love. Marriage. Law. Courts. Constriction. Revolution.

Astrology Archetype: ♄ ♅  (Saturn, Uranus)


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