The mythological storytelling of Jean Coteau’s Orpheus is a wonder. He captures the ethereal in the cinematography, editing, writing, and performance. He presents an all-encompassing look at all the hidden facets of the world, revealing an existence under the surface. He slides into the avant-garde while adhering to ancient narrative structural storytelling and keeping with a surrealist romance between dimensions. A universe where the mirrors are deaths’ passageways and the truth is a distortion of reality. The rhythms of Cocteau’s filmmaking are indescribable as he yearns to understand Orphée (Jean Marais) rather than destroy him.
Each performance contributes to the atmosphere and each cast fits the character perfectly. María Casares as Death is an aberration of harm, and a bizarrely sympathetic portrayal of the Grim Reaper with the ability to self-sacrifice. It’s an unorthodox look at the mythical figure and integral to the otherworldly systems that drive her decisions in the human world.
Cocteau’s style is tattered and torn between worlds. One being the destroyed former human world and the other, our realm of existence that holds Orphée and Eurydice. These two universes aren’t final and time moves in a flat circle. Past decisions can be undone and the world is adaptable. It doesn’t adhere to real world structure but to the film’s logic. Existing solely in myth, floating in the ethereal, captured by Cocteau’s dreamlike quality in the aesthetic and narrative. The atmosphere is bliss and lost to the eternal ticking of time but not fully at its mercy. Unforgettable film and trilogy.