Today is a landmark for this list. Due to the inclusion of trilogies on the 1001 list making it a bit more than 1001 entries, Orpheus marks the point where I have actually surpassed the 75% mark. Given that I was on film 418 when I started following the list as part of the blog, this really is an amazing piece of progress.
Orpheus was a really cool pick for this landmark and I have my husband to thank for that one. As much as I enjoyed the other Jean Cocteau film on the 1001 list (La Belle et la bête) for the dreamlike visuals, I think he really surpassed himself here. Maybe it’s because I grew up as a fan of Greek mythology or maybe it’s because I like watching films where you’re rewarded for noticing subtle detail, but I really loved Orpheus.
As the title shows, Orpheus is a modern retelling of the Greek myth when put through Cocteau’s lens. Everything from the original myth is still there, but given a greater degree of complexity with story threads of agents of death falling for humans and Orpheus becoming obsessed with lines of poetry being played through the radio of the car belonging to Death.
This all turns the character of Orpheus from being a talented poet who misses his dead wife into a man obsessed with his new creative inspiration and a love for the agent of death that claimed his rival and (through an act of jealousy) his wife. It also introduces the character of Heurtebise, who is a cross between an agent of death and a guardian angel. What’s interesting about this character is that recurs in other works by Cocteau, which might explain why I found him so likeable.
Story aside, where Orpheus really shines is in the special effects. Keeping in mind that this in 1950, the practical effects in this film are impressive. So good are they, that those that feel a bit clunky still help with the otherworldy aspect. There’s an incredible impressive bit towards the end where a dead Orpheus descends into the underworld with Heurtebise and they move against invisible winds and tumble along walls. There are also a lot of cool effects using windows and mirrors – which makes sense in world seeing how mirrors are portals to the world of the dead.
So here we are with just a quarter of the list to go. At this rate I’ll probably be finishing this off around the time that I turn 35, but there’s no need to rush things. With Orpheus being such a spellbinding was to christen the beginning of the march to the finish line, I’m excited to think of how many new favourites there are waiting for me on the remainder of the list.