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Orphée (1950) - Vampiric Projections: Into the Mirror & Reversal

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Orphée Frankrike 1950 Regi Jean Cocteau Med Jean Marais, François Périer, María Casares, Marie Déa 1t 31m DCP Fransk tale, engelsk tekst Aldersgrense 12 år

Jean Cocteau wrote in Poetry in Cinematography: "A film is not the telling of a dream, but a dream in which we all participate together through a kind of hypnosis […] By dream, I mean a succession of real events that follow on from one another with the magnificent absurdity of dreams" (Jean Cocteau and His Films of Orphic Identity, by Arthur B. Evans).

Cocteau was a pioneer in avant-garde cinema as early as the 1930's, and in particular practical camera effects. Whereas the French writer-poet had only started making films back then, other established filmmakers were so impressed by his special effects, only to be surprised by the simplicity of their executions.

Orphée, from 1950, set in both an anachronistic and atemporal postwar Paris, has many vampiric traits.

The exploration of alternative mirror reflections is a very inventive one in this film.
Francis Ford Coppola, in his Dracula (1992), must have been influenced by Cocteau's gravity-defying and floating universes from both The Blood of a Poet (1932) and Orpheus.

Moreover, Orpheus brings back the chapter Regression/Reversal & Slowing of the Vampiric projections: scenes shot on camera with actors moving in reverse, and then reversed again for the scene. The way this effect was made must have also inspired many scenes in Bram Stoker's Dracula.

“Mirrors are gates through which Death comes and goes. Look long enough in a mirror, and you will see Death at work”, says Heurtebise in Orphée, signaling yet another vampiric nature to the Princess Death, whom Orpheus follows to the netherworld, in order to get his wife back.

In an interview in 1954 or 1955, Cocteau said that "Orpheus is an orchestration of The Blood of a Poet. In The Blood of a Poet, I play the piano unskilfully with one finger. In Orpheus, I orchestrate the themes". He also mentioned in that interview that, at the time, Orpheus was showing every Saturday night in Berlin, for the 5th or 6th year.

Following the screening, Oscar Debs will give a short analysis of these tropes in the film.


Suggested reading:

Between Dreams and Death: Jean Cocteau's Orpheus (1950), by Danica van Den Velde

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