Review by Shelley Carter
At first glance, Cartomancy and Tarot in Film 1940-2010, an analysis and index of 199 films containing scenes of card or tarot reading, seems a little daunting to a non-academic. However, this book is very readable and very engaging. It is filled with fascinating information and observations that will keep anyone reading on.
Auger has researched divination, and specifically cartomancy and tarot reading, extremely thoroughly. Among many other things, she references nuances of ancient Greek divination, instances of divination in the bible and divination with regard to particular social constructs. In her analysis, she highlights two stories, Prosper Merimee’s Carmen (1845-46) and Alexander Pushkin’s Queen of Spades (1834), on which several films are based, and which typify the view of the fortune-teller in popular culture.
She analyzes the characterization of the cartomancer and the querent with regard to gender, age, marital status and profession, as well as ethnicity and eccentricity as related to the supernatural. The cartomancer’s abilities as a mystic, and tendencies to nomadism are also considered.
Auger notes that, after 1990, depictions of the tarot reader become more ordinary and less exotic, likely reflecting the contemporary popularity of tarot reading. The readers are portrayed as amateurs, often reading for themselves and occasionally for others, under special circumstances.
Auger presents an analysis of the tarot trumps with regard to frequency of appearance, and their significance in the film. She compares the commonly held understanding of the card meanings with those ascribed to the cards in the films.
The Appendices are made up of the filmography itself, which includes the usual film details, the card deck(s) employed, if discernable, and specific cards used and highlighted. There is a plot summary which outlines how the playing / tarot cards are featured in the film.
Additional appendices show charts of information contained in her analysis.
Where possible, she has included card images, the identification of the deck, the reading layout, and quotes.
A discussion and comparisons to other films and literature is included.
There is also a section filled with fascinating nuggets of information, referencing the cards at the film’s source.
These books are a particular treat for tarot enthusiasts, who generally can’t get enough information about their area of interest. While “tarot people” will be the main audience for this companion set, I would actually recommend this book to anyone with even a fleeting interest in divination, cartomancy and tarot cards, it will pique their interest even further.
By Emily E Auger