“It is much less a film than it is myself” Jean Cocteau

Cocteau wrote prolifically about his experiences with film-making and his ideas about film, writings which were collected and published in “The Art Of Cinema” thirty years after his death, in 1992. Orphée is the second film in a trilogy which includes Cocteau’s 1930 Le Sang d’un Poète and the 1960 Testament d’Orphée, Cocteau’s final film.

“In reality all I did was turn my lamp this way and that, to illuminate various facets of the themes that obsess me: the loneliness of individuals, waking dreams and childhood, that dreadful state of childhood from which I will never escape” Jean Cocteau

Cocteau’s techniques on all three films, which we have adopted for this performance, mix the latest technologies with very simple and basic methods, often because Cocteau was improvising with whatever materials he had to hand.

“Film will only became an art when its materials are as inexpensive as pencil and paper.” Jean Cocteau

Not knowing that a camera could be situated on a dolly, Cocteau placed his actors on wheeled trolleys and pulled them through the studio with ropes. His fantastic mix of high tech and low tech creates a magical and rough-edged cinematic style which is very much his own. This mixture of technology and poetry, experimentation and simplicity, playfulness and seriousness are consistent from his first film to his last, and make his attitude to film-making and the works themselves unique.

“I had no idea. I did not even know you could use rails. We moved him along on a platform with a cord” Jean Cocteau

1930 Le Sang d’Un Poète (The Blood of a Poet)
1946 La Belle et La Bête (Beauty and the Beast)
1948 L’Aigle à Deux Têtes (The Eagle With Two Heads
1948 Les Parents Terribles (released in English as The Storm Within)
1950 Orphée
1952 La Villa Santo-Sospir
1957 8 x 8: A Chess Sonata in 8 Movements
1960 Testament d’Orphée (Testament of Orpheus)

Le Sang d’un Poète 1930

“Le sang d’un poète was based on the poets need to go through a series of deaths and to be reborn in a shape closer to his real being” Jean Cocteau

Orphée 1950

“The three basic themes in Orphée are:
1. The successive deaths through which a poet must pass before he becomes, in that admirable line from Mallarmé, tel qu’en lui-même – changed into himself at last by eternity.
2. The theme of immortality: the person who represents Orphée’s Death sacrifices herself and abolished herself to make the poet immortal.
3. Mirrors: we watch ourselves grow old in mirrors. They bring us closer to death.” Jean Cocteau

Le Testament d’Orphée 1960

The poet is like the dead in the sense that he walks invisibly among the living and is only imprecisely seen by them after his death; that is to say, in the case of the dead, when they appear in the form of ghostsJean Cocteau