CHANNEL 4 4SEVEN E4 MORE4 FILM4 4MUSIC 4oD

Viewing your Watchlist and recommended content requires Javascript

  • TBC
  • Animation, Comedy
  • 1949
  • 112 mins

Orphée

Orphée

Synopsis

A 1940s poet gambles everything in an infatuation with death and fame in Jean Cocteau's highly personal update of the Orpheus myth

About

Artist, poet and filmmaker Jean Cocteau was haunted by the Orpheus myth, and this multi-layered allegory has as much to do with his own notion of creativity as it does the original Greek tale, which told of a divinely gifted musician's love and loss of his wife Eurydice - a story in which Orpheus had to charm his way out of Hades.

Updating the story to post-war France, here Orpheus is a commercially successful poet stung by the disdain of his peers. When a rival writer dies in a car accident, Orpheus accompanies a mysterious Princess to her chalet, then becomes obsessed by a series of cryptic radio broadcasts. His wife Eurydice immediately begins to worry but already it's too late - the Princess is revealed as Death and Orpheus is ready to risk everything to satisfy his new mistress.

Jean Cocteau was 60 years old when he began filming Orphee (he wrote the screenplay in 1926), but the execution is remarkably fresh. Early scenes in the Cafe De Poetes capture all the bitching and bitterness of a backstabbing literary community. Later, however, things take a more surreal turn, with Orpheus slipping through a mirror before being held to account at an underworld tribunal.

Cocteau assembles a succession of unsettlingly strange images yet the narrative remains tightly-stung throughout. Playful, mysterious and ripe with symbol but also accessible and loaded with Cocteau's own sly wit, it's a testament to the director's belief in the poetic potential of cinema that he creates a film as fascinating and resonant for contemporary audiences as the original myth was for himself.

Cast & Connections

  • Actor: Marie Déa, Juliette Gréco, Edouard Dermithe, Henri Crémieux, Jean Marais
  • Director: Jean Cocteau
  • Screen Writer: Jean Cocteau
  • Producer: André Paulvé
  • Photographer: Nicolas Hayer
  • Composer: Georges Aric

In a nutshell

A fresh and fascinating treatment of an abiding myth.

Latest from Film4...

  • Film4 Ex Machina

    Ex Machina

    Domnhall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander star in Alex Garland's directorial debut

  • Film4 Letter To Elia

    A Letter To Elia

    Martin Scorsese narrates and co-directs a documentary on the late filmmaker Elia Kazan

    On Film4: 20 Apr 2:50AM

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Four films announced for Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House 2014

    Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House celebrates its 10th anniversary this August with 14 nights of open-air screenings Celebrating ten years of classic, cult, and contemporary films in its open-ai

  • Channel 4 Blog

    Frank: a Twitter prequel

    Commissioning Executive Anna Higgs on creating a prequel to Lenny Abrahamson¿s Frank via the most natural storytelling medium possible for the character involved: Twitter The @JonBurroughs83 Twitter

Register with Film4.com

Personalise your Film4 experience

  • Set film reminders
  • Build your watchlist
  • Get film suggestions

or Register

Share