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Catch #22: Why the Dark Night of the Soul is the Caregiver Archetype on the Wheel

Updated: Oct 24, 2019

#feature #film #structure #darknightofthesoul

The power of the womb

that gave birth to you

knows your darkest secrets

and open wounds

to hide inside

or breathe outside

which one is the safe side?

Rovinj, Croatia

Here we are, at the Caregiver--> Lover stage, that marks the lowest point of the story, where the hero is emotionally broken, left alone and his soul is crying for help from above. In the three-act structure, this point is usually known as the second part of ‘the Second Act Turning Point.’ Screenwriters also refer to it as ‘the Dark Night of the Soul.’

Since the Caregiver is the ruler of parenthood, it is suggested that in this stage the hero is helpless like a child, but has to show love and mercy to survive: in this crucial moment, he has to become his own parent. It is the ultimate rite of passage, the growing up and entering adulthood part of the story –no matter what your story is about. Before we explain the archetypal meanings of the stage more in-depth, let’s take one step back to the structure (the wheel).

Structure = two storylines


in conflict

To take full advantage of the Intuitive Screenwriting Wheel, we should not forget that in the structure, or step outline, we are actually dealing with storylines in conflict with one another: every stage is ruling or exploring either a ‘wish’ or the ‘A storyline’ of the film, or a ‘need’ or the ‘B storyline’ of the film. In the first half of the film, we are dealing more with the wish storyline, since this is something that the hero is conscious of, while in the second half of the film, we are dealing more with the need storyline, since the hero is slowly becoming more and more aware of his subconscious needs.

The film structure is basically about these two storylines fighting for priority in the hero's heart.

To draw any structural conclusions from this, it is also good to remember that each act is a closed system.

For example, act one and two start with a wish, then a need follows, and they end with a wish. But act three and four start with a need, the wish follows, and they end with a need.

To understand how this works better, here is a list of all the archetypes and storylines they rule. To prove this, I am going to provide some movie examples in the next few posts, but you can certainly go and check this for yourself.

Warrior- Fool: Wish Storyline

Creator- Orphan: Need Storyline

Explorer-Magician: Wish Storyline

Lover- Caregiver: Wish Storyline

Sage-Destroyer: Need Storyline

Ruler-Innocent: Wish Storyline

Fool-Warrior: Need Storyline

Orphan-Creator: Wish Storyline

Magician-Explorer: Need Storyline

Caregiver-Lover: Need Storyline

Destroyer-Sage: Wish Storyline

Innocent-Ruler: Need Storyline

You may notice that we approach every archetype from both storyline perspectives.

You may also notice that the storylines alternate, except in transition from act one into two and from act three into four.

This shows us that there is always a link between the end of act one and the beginning of act two, as well as at the end of act three and the beginning of act four. Stages at those particular positions, Explorer and Lover, and Magician and Caregiver are closely linked and energetically connected.

So, the two most important things to take away from these archetypal insights are:

The pair Magician/Caregiver is at the heart of the ‘I NEED’ line of the film.
The pair Explorer/Lover is at the heart of the ‘I WISH’ line of the film.


Also, the Magician/Caregiver is the most important pair of archetypes, since both lead directly to the end of the film, as every film ends with the ‘need’ storyline.

In Save the Cat, Blake Snyder refers to those two points as:

‘All is lost’ (75) – here this is Magician-Explorer

‘The dark night of the soul’ (75-85) – here this is Caregiver- Lover

While ‘The break into forth’ is Caregiver.

Click here to read the full post that I wrote earlier about the Magician stage:

This realization or recognition always becomes clear during the Magician stage: something extraordinary happens to help the hero decide. It is a truly magical moment in the film. The magic is never a decision- but rather a change of fate… or the law of attraction in action. This is why I call it ‘the lightening’ as it comes from the above. Many times, this point is also connected to someone or something dying.

In the Magician stage, the hero is hit by an insight, a revelation – he or she suddenly sees where he/she does or does not belong.

In Fish Tank, in the Magician stage, Mia can’t hide from the truth anymore – she realizes that she can’t be in love with someone who is the father of a family.

In the Magician stage of Sunset Boulevard, Joe knows that he belongs with Betty, she seems like a fresh new beginning, she is the incarnation of what he needs in his life to feel whole, to be an artist, a true writer… to feel good about himself.