|Jean Marais plays Orpheus in Cocteau's film. The mirror is Cocteau's portal between the world of the living and the world of immortals. Orpheus, mythically, longs for and ascertains the way across and back, when his bride perishes. But, is he in love with her or with the idea of that portal? Click the YouTube link for the French trailer.|
Jean Cocteau was an artist of difficult categorization. He was more than a cinemaste, yet he developed the artform; and he was not merely a poet, for he called his films "poems". With numerous murals and sketches and films and stage-plays dealing with Orpheus, Cocteau was deeply involved with the development of the myth throughout his life.
The 1950 film is at once easy to watch and challenging to comprehend. The viewer will readily trace the story of Orpheus from his preoccupation with his craft — decoding messages from an oracular source — to his neglect of his bride, to his pursuit of his departed wife into another existence. If the challenge of Orpheus is to transition from the world of living into the world of departed spirits, then Cocteau's Orpheus meets the challenge in a remarkable way. True to the elements of the myth, once Orpheus returns from the other side with Eurydice, he faces anew the problem of finding the time and attention required to sustain his love for her. Just as C.W. Gluck played with the challenge of retaining a recovered love, Cocteau shows us in Orpheus a lover of epic drive but mundane recollection.
Watch the film and you'll see what I mean.