MovieChat Forums > Orpheus (1950) Discussion > Personification of death....

Personification of death....


I watched this movie a while ago and I really enjoyed it! But now I no longer have access to the film so I was wondering if someone could help me out with something I have been wondering for a while... Death (personified as the princess) is quite different from what we usually see death depicted as (the grim reaper).. so what was wrong with that image that didn't make it stick? or what about the personality of the princess didn't seem "deathy" enough???

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Death in this movie, as portrayed by Maria Casares, is different from the usual personification of death in that she is vulnerable (she falls for the hero) and she answers to a higher power (there is a "committee" that judges her actions).

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also, in the film she explains her appearance. she says ( and I'm paraphrasing) "If I were to look like the image man has created of Death with the sicle(sic) and hood, they would recognize me"

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(all my opinion of course..!): SPOILERS

You also have to bear in mind that this was Orphee's and the young poets idea of death. In fact, did the young poet ever recognise the princess as Death?
Either way, she personifies Death to Orphee - don't forget that Orphee fell in love with Death also, not just the other way around. He loved Death more than his own loving wife. Of course in the end he DOES love his wife, when the memory of Death and his dealings with Death have been eradicated.

At the start Orphee is revered by all, apart from the young poets. The world loves him but he begins to love Death and become infatuated with her, and follows her against his betetr judgement almost. So eventually he becomes estranged to his wife, he is accused of plaigarism by the poets who try to mob him. He is accused but he sees no need to defend himself, only to get closer to Death.

I have only seen this once, for the first time a couple of nights ago. That's what I think so far - this is a great movie which requires many more visits.

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I find it relieving that death is not portrayed in a predictable way in this film. Death, as the Princess notes, comes in many forms. Some, like Orpheus, do indeed romanticize it and court some seductively shaped version of it with all manner of self-destructive lust. However, the fact that death in all it's varied guises is subject to a law-making body that "standardizes" the state despite all of the seeming individuation we attach to it makes sense. In this sense, then, the film forwards a bleak pathetic fallacy modeled on our own bureaucratic world. Yet Cocteau is careful to offer some hope for the poet-- subject to but able to combat mortality-- by giving him the wherewithal to break out of the programmatic nature of erasure by (as the original tells us) “charming” the darkness.

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Yep, it's definitely refreshing to see a creative, new way of portraying an abstract concept (death). But I guess the Grim Reaper look is so powerful, it has become the preferred vision. Still, I like artists who challenge the stereotypes and hackneyed gimmicks. Like in Dogma where god is played by Alanis Morrisette!

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noncence! each and every one recognised her as Death. Orphee was the last one to do it )

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Roger Ebert in his Great Movies II book said Mr. Cocteau wanted Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich to play Death, which would have elevated this movie to Classic Status. (Not that it isn't already a classic, but with an icon like GG or MD it would be much more well known!).

I would like to think Death, like God, appears to everyone differently. God is the old man with a beard in the sky, ho hum - why couldn't God appear in some other form? As for death, in a Twilight Zone episode an old reclusive woman was visited by a young man and invited to come out of her house. The young man was Robert Redford, and yes, she did leave her house with him!

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Another female portrayal of Death is in Neil Gaimna's graphic novel "Sandman".

Death is a beautiful young woman. She's your big sister, gentle, wilse, and understanding (and a little bit punky) who will explain to you what happened, calm your fears, and help you leave.

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I thought that Maria Casares looked and acted quite a bit the way that we would imagine Marlen Dietrich to do had she been given the part. Maria Montez was also up for the part but the budget didn't allow for her and her husband to be in the movie.

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I remember reading a poem that went something like this: Sleep and Death were two sisters, and Death was by far the most beautiful.

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Death said that there were innumerable shapes of death. A consequence of this is that, unlike the grim reaper, she will represent death to a minority only as there are other shapes by which a person imagines and meets their death.

Keep silent unless what you are going to say is more important than silence.

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i liked the idea of a woman representing death but not the characterization itself, she was too harmless for that





so many movies, so little time

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I think that Cocteau needed Death to look beautiful. I also think that the Princess had the look of the femme fatale of noir movies where she is the seductress who often lures men to their death.

Death has been personified in female form in mythology, especially by Morta who had two female companions who were known collectively as the Parcae. Perhaps the two lethal men on motorcycles and the Princess took the place of the Parcae symbolically in this movie.

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