Movie Review 'Orpheus' Jean Cocteau
Jean Cocteau set his 1949 film of the story in modern-day Paris, and added twists that would have startled the Greeks, especially a romantic triangle with Death as the third partner. "Orpheus" shows Cocteau's taste for magic and enchantment; he uses simple but dramatic special effects and trick shots to show his characters passing into the world of death by stepping through mirrors, and when he wants a character to spring back to life, he simply runs the film backward. He weaves his effects so lightly into the story that after a time they aren't tricks at all, but simply the conditions of his mythical world.
Orpheus aims to cross the river Styx a second time to fetch her again but is prevented from doing so: he has lost Eurydice forever. In Ovid’s telling, he sits by the river for seven days, bemoaning Hades’ empty promise.
It is this aspect, which transcends gender and time, artistic fashion and self-conscious artifice, that preserves the freshness of Orpheus and its emotional impact. Without entirely knowing why, the poet will continue to sing of Death, to seek her out, until the day he goes to his own eternity—and even then he will not find her.
Steegmuller, Francis. Cocteau. Boston: Little, Brown, 1970. Ed. Nonpareil Books, 1986. Print.
Sweet, David LeHardy. “The Lens of Lucien Clergue and the Cinema of Jean Cocteau.” Publ. in Jean Cocteau and the Testament of Orpheus by Lucien Clergue. New York: Viking Studio, 2001. 21-34. Print.
Virgil. The Georgics. Trans. David Ferry. New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2005.Print.
Williams, James S. Jean Cocteau. Critical Lives. London: Reaktion Books, 2008.Print.
–. Jean Cocteau. French Film Directors. Manchester, U.K.: Manchester Univ. Press, 2006. Print.