Orpheus (1950)

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.

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3 thoughts on “Orpheus (1950)

    1. Lol! Yeah I love the scenes in the underworld, they have such a surreal tone.

      One of my absolute favorites is the HBO film of Angels in America, which references Cocteau plus two key scenes are clearly inspired by Beauty and the Beast and Orpheus. I saw Angels before either of the Cocteau movies though, so it was fun to catch the connections when I finally caught up.

      Liked by 1 person

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