For something as intriguing as tarot cards, I’d imagine the tarot would be more recognized in our popular culture then it is. I can’t think of many films where the tarot was involved. One film is Woody Allen’s “Scoop” where tarot cards played a minor role.
Perhaps the film that stands out using tarot cards as a significant plot device was the 1973 James Bond film “Live and Let Die”. This was Roger Moore’s first time playing James Bond. This is not a movie review, but a look at the use of tarot cards in film.
The deck created for ’Live and Let Die’ is called the “Tarot of the Witches” designed by Fergus Hall. At the time the movie came out it was marketed as the James Bond 007 Tarot. The is not a typical deck. The art is bold, colorful and surrealistic. The characters have tiny little hands and feet.
Otherwise the deck follows the standard tarot format. I understand why the filmmakers would use such a colorful deck. It stood out visually in the movie. If you look carefully at the back of the cards you’ll see a stylized “007” pattern.
How realistic was tarot reading portrayed in the film? The card reading character was a Bond Girl, aptly named Solitaire (played by Jane Seymour) who had the power of clairvoyance. Her power was hereditary, passed down from her mother who had the same abilitiy.
The villain in the film was Kananga and he used Solitaire’s clairvoyance for his own sinister purposes. Implausibly, Solitaire’s clairvoyance was never wrong. Yeah, that is pure fantasy. The process of card reading involved elaborate costumes. Otherwise, notice the Celtic Cross layout in one of the images.
A plot element was her clairvoyance existed only if Solitaire remained a virgin. Her virginity (and her usefulness to the criminals) was obviously in jeopardy with Bond mulling around.
When Bond first encounters Solitaire, she speaks to him while reading her cards. She said, “I know who you are and what you are and why you come. You made a mistake. You will not succeed. The cards have followed you for me.”
Bond seems to believe in Solitaire’s abilities, but he is also uninterested in her power. If I were a secret agent and discovered someone with her amazing abilities, for sure I’d report her to intelligence. Forget the bad guy. Then again, maybe not. Who would believe? He really didn’t appreciate the significance. The villain sure did. In real life there are accounts of governments employing psychics and remote viewers. But no. Bond only wants to chase bad guys and have nookie with the girls.
Bond cleverly uses Solitaire’s belief in the cards to his advantage, seducing her by using a stacked deck. After sex, she tells Bond “The power…I’ve lost it. The High Priestess is wife to the Prince no longer of this world. The spiritual bridge to the secret church. It was my fate. By compelling me to earthly love, the cards themselves have taken away my powers. It makes no difference. The physical violation cannot be undone. When he finds out I’ve lost my power…”
This is an odd statement. Does it have any connection whatsoever with real-life spirituality? What to make of the movie’s association of virginity with clairvoyance? It’s only a plot contrivance. I don’t know any authentic spiritual practice that requires virginity for spiritual development, outside the Catholic Church. If anything, a card reader should have a full life experience. It would aid in card reading, not inhibit it.
The silliness aside, it is nice to see a movie with the tarot in full display, even if it is portrayed fantastically. The presence of tarot imagery in popular culture is uncommon enough, that anytime I see it I think it is worth noting and recording. Also noteworthy is another tarot deck featured in this movie, the famous Rider-Waite deck. Can you spot all of them in the images? There are quite a few. The Rider-Waite deck is the real deal, not movie making.