Orpheus on Screen:

Open and Closed Forms
  • Linda C. Ehrlich
Part of the Religion/Culture/Critique book series (RCCR)


In his Mythologies, Roland Barthes wrote: “Myth doesn’t deny things; on the contrary its function is to talk about them. It purifies them, gives them a natural and eternal justification.”1 The cinema—itself a spinner of myths— offers us adaptations of the myth of Orpheus through such distinctive cinematic interpretations as Jean Cocteau’s Orphée (1950), Marcel Camus’s Orfeu negro (Black Orpheus, 1958), Carlos Diegues’s Orfeu (2000), and Sidney Lumet’s The Fugitive Kind (1960), based on the Tennessee Williams play Orpheus Descending. Through these adaptations, Orpheus—that harmonizer of opposites and trickster of death—travels through the centuries and across borders. Since the actual recitation of a myth can be considered important, even necessary, to its vitality, we can imagine the cinematic adaptations of the story of Orpheus as a modern means of this recitation.


Bell Tower Film Festival Narrative Discourse Abandoned Object Journey Motif 


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Copyright information

© S. Brent Plate 2003

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  • Linda C. Ehrlich

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