Friday, September 7, 2012

Orpheus Film Festival: Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire, a brilliant film in its own right, intrigues me enormously for Danny Boyle's usage of the Orpheus myth.

Frieda Pinto plays Latika in Slumdog Millionaire. The lovestory of Jamal and Latika is different in Danny Boyle's film than it is in the source-novel by Vikas Swarup. Swarup's novel works with the Taj Mahal and the Mugal lovestory behind the building of the Taj. Boyle introduces classical mythology in a remarkable way.

The story of Jamal and Latika is Orpheus/Eurydice-like.
   Boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, etc.
Boyle's inclusion of one scene nails the story as THE Orpheus myth, and not just an archetypal resemblance.

One evening, Jamal and other thieves are stealing purses from an audience that is watching an operatic performance. Jamal takes a moment to watch the tenor singing his lament on stage. But just a moment. Danny Boyle cuts quickly from the operatic scene to a fleeting glimpse of Latika and then to the gameshow set, where Jamal must answer the next question on his way to 1-billion rupees.

Watch the clip. (A link is on my slide: OGCMA0797NOTOrpheusEurydice_Boyle. Click the "chapter 12" link right sidebar.

Did you catch the song the operatic tenor was singing? It's the moment in Gluck's Orfeo where Orpheus has just lost the love of his life, Eurydice.

Danny Boyle worked with Vikas Swarup's novel, Q & A (now retitled after the film Slumdog Millionaire), and introduced the element of Orpheus into the plot. Indeed, there is nothing of Orpheus/Eurydice except archetypal similarities in the novel itself. The insertion of overt Orpheus elements into the film is entirely the genius of Danny Boyle.

Swarup's lovestory has archetypal resemblance to Orpheus. Boyle's lovestory uses the Orpheus myth to add depth and new meaning to the narrative. The myth works like allusory shorthand.

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