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ORPHEUS (1950, FRANCE) – 8/10


The ancient Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice is probably known even to those who have completed only four grades of primary school, and the legend of a young man with an angelic voice who will save his beloved from death also fascinated the famous French artist Jean Cocteau. Cocteau was a true Renaissance man, a multi-talented artist and poet, playwright, screenwriter, writer, critic, visual artist and director, and today he is considered one of the most important and influential artists of the early 20th century. He was one of the first French surrealists and avant-gardes, a Dadaist who collaborated with Pablo Picasso. Modigliani and numerous famous artists of the time, and the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice obviously particularly impressed him because he wrote the play “Orpheus” in the mid-twenties.

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However, at the beginning of the thirties, Cocteau became interested in film, and in 1930 he shot the avant-garde “Blood of the Poet”, which is also the first part of his “Orpheus” trilogy. The second and central part of that trilogy was precisely the film from 1950, its modern, avant-garde and surrealist adaptation of the famous myth, the action of which was moved to Paris at the time. Orpheus was embodied by Jean Marais, a great French star of the time, also Cocteau’s lover, and his Orpheus is a famous poet simultaneously in love with his wife Eurydice (Marie Déa) and a mysterious princess who actually symbolizes death (Maria Casarès). In search of inspiration, Orpheus will follow the princess from the world of the living to the land of the dead, and in the meantime, the princess’ driver Heurtebise will fall in love with his pregnant wife. And “Orpheus” was the pinnacle of Cocteau’s filmmaking and the film in which he probably best expressed his vision.

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Today, “Orpheus” is considered one of the best and most famous avant-garde and surreal films, and Cocteau’s style and a kind of visual poetry served as an inspiration to many later filmmakers. Although the author himself claimed that “Orpheus” is a realistic film in which he actually observes Goethe’s distinction between what we consider real and the real truth, perhaps it would be best to describe it as a surreal fantasy located somewhere halfway between reality and dream. Although the action of “Orpheus”, at least it seems so at the beginning, takes place in the France of that time, it will soon become clear to us that it is more about the land of Cocteau’s dreams.  

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