Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus is a wildly imaginative, yet wholly confusing, interpretation of the Orpheus in the Underworld myth. It is clearly well thought-out, with layers upon layers of meaning waiting to be discovered, though upon this viewer’s first experience, the film was overall muddled and unclear.
Not to say this wasn’t intentional – on the contrary, Cocteau is a director who definitely knows what he’s doing. Even though I didn’t understand a lot of it, oddities and unexplained phenomena manifested themselves (however obtusely) later on in the film. For instance, mysterious radio transmissions received quick, somewhat explanatory references about two-thirds through; and quite a few anonymous characters took scenes and scenes to identify and develop.
Like Orpheus himself, we are thrust into a confusing, murky environment with little explanation. Clues manifest themselves throughout, though even the most disciplined viewer might grow impatient with the lack of clear answers and structure.
Cocteau acknowledges this, however; the constant motif of mirrors and the film’s climax of entering a mirror into A) an alternative reality or B) some time before the events of Orpheus began, invite us to re-think and re-visit this work, and go through the motions again.
Like the bizarro Night of the Hunter, I’m not quite ready to rate this one yet – hard to say whether I enjoyed it or not, but I was definitely intrigued and I know this requires additional viewing. This is surely a film which shall reward repeat visits and journeys back through the mirror.