Love and Death in Cocteau's Film Orpheus
In Jean Cocteau's Orpheus, death is personified through the character of the Princess. The Princess is an extremely powerful figure, although she ultimately succumbs to the power of love. Cocteau uses her actions, clothing, and dialogue to show her as a contradictory mix of being both very powerful, yet still very vulnerable to the power of love.
The main tool used by Cocteau to demonstrate this are her actions. Although she claims that she is not allowed to love, she is in fact in love with Orpheus. Through her actions she attempts to bring Orpheus closer to her and hopefully have him fall in love with her too.
At the beginning of the movie, they are gathered at the Cafe de Poets. Cegeste is killed, and the Princess demands that Orpheus help get him into the car and to her place. While in the car, he insists on knowing what is going on and where they are going. The Princess is very controlling and forces him to be quiet and listen to the messages being broadcast over the radio. She knows that this is something that Orpheus will be very interested in and can help lure him to her. They arrive at her castle and she is very mysterious. She does not let Orpheus know what is going on, she only lets him see just enough to get him more curious and interested in her. The next morning Orpheus awakes on the side of the road and returns home with the Princess's chauffeur Heurtebise. Here he spends most of his time in the garage listening to more mysterious messages on the car radio. In fact, he is so obsessed with the messages that he completely ignores his wife, and is now more preoccupied with finding out about the Princess. Orpheus is then summoned by the detective, who wants to interrogate him for the killing of Cegeste. When he gets to town, the Princess shows up and plays mind games with him. She uses her power of being able to appear and disappear whenever she wants to get him to follow her all over town. Although she feels she has no right to love, she cannot help but love Orpheus.
Another action that shows her vulnerability to the power of love is that she comes through the mirror every night to watch him sleep. She cannot let herself be apart from Orpheus because her love for him is too strong. Although she is aware of the horrifying consequences that she will suffer, she takes a life without being given orders to do so. She makes sure that Orpheus is in the garage, preoccupied with listening to the messages that she has Cegeste send over the radio,...