A millennial on a path of self-discovery dictated by a magic 8-ball: Mercury’s Retrograde combines Jungian theory with astrology
The London-based animator Zohar Dvir brings Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious to the digital age in this satirical animation.
- 4 December 2020
- Jyni Ong
Zohar Dvir’s latest film Mercury’s Retrograde tells the story of something many of us can relate to: a millennial who’s seeking answers. Experimental, humorous and visually powerful, the six-and-a-half minute satire is the London-based animator’s take on psychology pioneer Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious, still poignant and relevant today. Zohar explains: “Jung discovered that specific symbolic themes exist in all cultures and civilisations, all epochs, and in every individual.” These archetypes can be seen throughout human history, cropping up time and time again in near identical form and meaning regardless of the time and culture. And it was these universal and timeless symbols that fascinated Zohar, spurring her to explore the notion in a new film.
Focusing on six main archetypes each “fundamental for a process of personal growth” which the animator manifests into characters. Zohar’s short features: The Self, The Shadow, Animus, The Mother, The Child and the Wise Old Woman, creating a film about a never ending quest to find self realisation, self improvement and, though it’s a cliché, the meaning of life. Drawn by the works of Lynch and Kubrick – two of her greatest inspirations – Zohar aims to similarly discuss the human condition and society in her films. Ultimately, raising more questions than giving answers, a trait she greatly admires. She says of the cinematic spearheads: “It’s like they trust your intelligence as a viewer to figure it out and I like that. That’s the kind of filmmaker I want to be.”
Born and raised in Israel, Zohar initially studied visual communication at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art and Design. There, she made a computer game for her graduate project, Metaphysical World, a combination of music-making and metaphysics, paving the way for the animator’s intellectual interests to unfold. But after graduation, Zohar reveals, “I couldn’t really find myself professionally.” She was told repeatedly that her portfolio was “weird” or “different”, something that wouldn’t appeal to potential employers. Eventually, after freelance stints working in music and live visuals for events, the trailer for Metaphysical World was selected for Pictoplasma which is where a revelation occurred.
“I realised that there are others who do similar things to me and that I do 'belong' somewhere – just maybe not in Israel.” Going onto enrol at London’s Royal College of Art in its Information Experience Design course, she turned her attentions to the creation of immersive experiences, using moving image, sound design, philosophy, storytelling and technology as a combined vehicle to explore the matter. Since then, Zohar hasn’t looked back, and Mercury’s Retrograde is the latest outcome of her diverse interests.
Stylistically merging 3D and 2D elements to create a distinct aesthetic which aptly compliments her chosen themes, Mercury’s Retrograde is “warm, almost cartoony and very surreal.” The idea for the film came about rather serendipitously, which is in fact how much of her works arise. She waits for seemingly unrelated events or thoughts to occur, “and at some point it clicks together and I get an idea out of it.” In this instance, “I was researching Jungian theories and thinking about how everyone around me is obsessed with astrology. Then it clicked, and I made Mercury’s Retrograde.”
According to Zohar’s research, Jung believed that society lost its spirituality as scientific understanding grew and, in turn, “leading to disorientation and dissociation.” It’s a sentiment still relevant today, as the animator goes on to explain: “In an overwhelming and chaotic world it seems like the only way to live through it is disconnecting ourselves emotionally. We are lost, detached, and we have replaced or intuition and inner truth with external sources that give us the sense and order.” Is an anxiety attack caused by Mercury in retrograde? Did you contract Covid-19 because your moon is in cancer? Zohar found herself asking these questions as she developed the narrative of her film, delving into an alternative means of accessing information: tarot readings, psychics and other such rituals.
In Mercury’s Retrograde, the millennial protagonist turns to a magic 8-ball for answers. Replacing the toy with her intuition as she finds herself incapable of making decisions without it. As the film unfolds, she embarks on a journey of self-discovery both through the ball and her unconscious; a material and immaterial tension suspended throughout the satirical animation. Going on a journey which may be seen as spiritual or may be seen as a quest for a lost object, the film cleverly toes the line between the superficial and the metaphysical. “She’s addicted to technology, and not even the most profound moment can change that,” Zohar continues, “it’s a vicious cycle that never ends: trying to be better but being too afraid of looking in the mirror.”
With sound design by Alexia Charoud and a tribute to Edvard Munch’s The Scream, Mercury’s Retrograde is determinedly chaotic, abrupt and immersive. It might very well take you back to last night’s dream, but with a twist of humour injected into the surreal. Zohar, who is currently working on her next film concludes: “The result is a very personal piece that aims to speak to my generation. In a way it’s self portrait but I received many comments from people who felt it was about them, which is incredible really.”
GalleryZohar Dvir: Mercury's Retrograde (Copyright © Zohar Dvir, 2020)
Zohar Dvir: Mercury's Retrograde (Copyright © Zohar Dvir, 2020)
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.