Discussion Questions for Test 2, Part 1:
In order to prepare for this part of the exam,
which will focus on Cocteau's film Orphee and the chapters in your
book also concerned with the Underworld and Orpheus, consider the following
questions. Take the time before the test to look up details if you need to.
No notes will be allowed in the exam room. You have already considered some
of these questions in preparation for your last writing assignment....so you
might want to review that! (but take care not to let Muppet Theater
influence your memory of the text-Orpheus)
1. How is The World of the Living distinguished
from the Other? Consider physical boundaries, scenery, lighting,
psychological effect (what we feel and fear and hope...), physicality (how
our bodies look), laws of physics, time, etc. Does the layout of the
underworld conform to the plan described by Er and in
Aeneid 6 in the
Underworld Chapter (rivers, pathway, palace, ferryman)? How does Cocteau
draw the Underworld? Does his vision amount to the same kind of thing even
though the details are different?
2. How does one breach the barrier between the two
3. Consider the path Orpheus takes going in and
going out of the Underworld. Compare Orpheus' descent/ascent to/from the
Underworld in text and film. Are these differences significant to the
meaning of each presentation?
4. Who is in charge in the Other World? How is
their power manifested? (Re-read the part about the judges and punishment in
your book). In the film, we find that even Death (and we recall that the
Princess is just one aspect of Death) is bound by laws and held accountable.
Is this true for any story we have read about the Underworld in classical
literature? Include details from both text and film.
5. Why does Orpheus (or anyone) go down to the
Underworld (in the text and in the film)? What does he seek? Does he satisfy
his desire? Remember that in the film, Orpheus is attracted to Death. In
mythology, Death is more of an enemy to be defeated or at least cheated.
6. Determine clearly in your mind what Orpheus'
relationship with Art is in the classical text(s). Where does his skill come
from, what does it allow him to do that others can't, what is his response
to it, how does he use it? Now consider the film-Orpheus. His relationship
with Art is different. Consider that in the beginning of the film, he was a
successful poet willing to rest on his laurels as long as his fans adored
him. Later, art becomes more important as a means to an end. Can you
articulate the difference between the relationship with art for the
text-Orpheus and the film-Orpheus?
7. In the film, Sleep is a metaphor for Death. It
is also a metaphor for Ignorance (while we are alive...). Explain.
8. Compare the Death of Orpheus, film and text. How
does Cocteau include elements of the ancient tale, and how is it different?
Are Cocteau's reasons for including elements of the maenads' attack the same
as for the ancient story? What does bring about Orpheus' death in each?
In short, consider the mythic elements of Cocteau's
film: how we use art to transcend the limitations of humanity, how we try to
access knowledge just out of our grasp (an example of how human beings
constantly strive for something beyond our limited human experience) and the
possible promise that Death holds (a release from these limitations).
Remember that Orpheus' experiences inspired a mystery cult that swept the
known ancient world. Clearly, it offered something that people wanted - the
promise of an existence better and beyond our present one. Would Cocteau
agree with this? Think about what happens to Orpheus at the end of the film.
Which world does he choose? Or does he?
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