Things I’ve loved

Things I’ve Loved is a celebration of things from the near or distant past, either overlooked or forgotten by the unforgiving eye of popular culture. It is a venue to both reminisce and profess about this one thing that you’ve loved and think others may love too.

The other day I had an opportunity to watch a film called Orpheu Negro (1958), translated into English as Black Orpheus. The movie is a romantic tragedy based on the ancient Greek tale of Orpheus, son of Apollo, who journeys with his music into the underworld in search for his beloved Eurydice. Black Orpheus, filmed by French film director Marcel Camus, is not the version of the original myth which was retold during the rise of the Roman Empire but a recreation modified with the intention of attracting a variety of audiences.

The movie opens up with ancient artwork relief — featuring Orpheus and Eurydice — in order to indicate that the story’s main concept is taken from the classical myth. Camus keeps a fairytale like atmosphere with an addition of endless melody throughout the movie and also and an ecstatic mood that all the characters portray, which in my opinion was the greatest part. Orpheus’s music helps sooth and relax everything including the people who endure misery and pain in their lives. Eurydice, for example, arriving on a ferryboat into a large city is initially frightened and unhappy in spite of all the joy surrounding her, but when she steps inside her cousin Serafina’s home and listens to Orpheus chanting next door, the first true smile appears on her face as she gradually begins to dance. Camus takes everything that seems mythical and fairytale like and turns it into something that we would see today — he modernizes it. For instance, Orpheus’ musical tool, the lyre, is substituted with a guitar; both stringed instruments. Now for the creature’s side of this, Camus takes the multi-headed hound guarding the gates of the underworld and turns it into a guard dog behind a metal bar fence.
One of the main goals of the director is to create suspense for his audience, to do so Camus substitutes Aristaeus with death, a man veiled in a strange costume that chases Eurydice and causes her to leave to the city. Thus one of the most significant adjustments made was the exclusion of Eurydice’s death by means of snakebite, instead Camus presents her demise at the hands of Orpheus himself through a form of electrocution at the railway station.

Brazil serves the director fairly well, in place of Greece, as a setting for shooting Black Orpheus. Camus was able to capture all the natural joy that was present during the annual carnival of Rio de Janeiro, where even those residing in the slums join in to celebrate life and share the happiness.

The director successfully portrays the way of life that surrounded ancient Greeks without filming in an ancient setting. If you are the kind of person that’s into any type of mythology I definitely suggest you watch this movie!