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Black Orpheus (1959)

Orfeu Negro (original title)
A retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth, set during the time of the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro.

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Cast

Credited cast:
...
...
Marcel Camus ...
Ernesto
Fausto Guerzoni ...
Fausto
...
Mira
Léa Garcia ...
Serafina
Ademar Da Silva ...
Alexandro Constantino ...
Waldemar De Souza ...
Chico
Jorge Dos Santos ...
Benedito
Aurino Cassiano ...
Zeca
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Maria Alice
Ana Amélia
Elizeth Cardoso
Arlete Costa
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Storyline

In the heady atmosphere of Rio's carnival, two people meet and fall in love. Eurydice, a country girl, has run away from home to avoid a man who arrived at her her looking for her. She is convinced that he was going to kill her. She arrives in Rio to stay with her cousin Serafina. Orfeo works as a tram conductor and is engaged to Mira - as far as Mira is concerned anyways. As Eurydice and Orpheus get to know one another they fall deeply in love. Mira is mad with jealousy and when Eurydice disappears, Orfeo sets out to find her. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

The film that introduced Bossa Nova to the world...


Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

| |

Language:

Release Date:

21 December 1959 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Black Orpheus  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

, ,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)

Color:

(Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Breno Mello was a soccer player with no acting experience at the time he was cast as Orfeu. Mello was walking on the street in Rio de Janeiro, when Marcel Camus stopped him and asked if he would like to be in a film. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Benedito: [to Serafina] Serafina, look how beautiful!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Cinemania (2002) See more »

Soundtracks

Batterie de Cappela
Traditional folklore
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User Reviews

 
Voodoo and Samba as the Root of Black Orpheus
3 December 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

There are so many reasons Black Orpheus is important to cinema. First, how many people know that prior to Marcel Camus making this film the late Orson Welles attempted to capture Rio Carnival but with no story, plot, or script? In 1942, Welles discovered voodoo was at the root of the carnival samba, and started filming in the favelas, the slum shanty towns on the hills of Rio...it was considered by Hollywood to be anti-establishment and dangerous by Brazilian authorities. Thus, Welles was not able to complete his film.

Samba is a Portuguese form of music, the word was derived from the West African bantu word "semba", meaning "invoke the spirit of the ancestors". Long outlawed as a dangerous expression of black slave culture, samba music eventually gained legitimacy and became a big part of carnival.

Nearly 20 years later Black Orpheus achieves what Welles was trying for and goes beyond it. To start Marcel Camus had a script to work from whereas Welles was trying to wing it on the spot. Camus successfully recreated the Orpheus-Eurydice myth using the Rio Carnival as the back drop. The main characters retain the mythological names, including the symbolic Death. This works because it is Afro-Latin culture where pagan-Christian names were more evident and because the Carnival itself was such an important part of the story. History manifests as a deja vu, a cyclical progression of event and re-incarnation, understood only by the occultic transformation of samba, trance and possession, for which the Carnival is the engine.

To those who misunderstand or are ignorant of samba, voodoo, or the Rio Carnival Black Orpheus may seem overwhelming, especially because of all the singing and dancing but samba (and Carnival) is ritual, in its most elementary form it is a raw cacophony of primitive drumming, clapping, chanting... and the droning cries of the dancers who stagger on the edge of the "stage", seeking possession and reincarnation.

Black Orpheus won the Palm d'Or in 1959 at Cannes. It was seen as progressive because it featured black actors and the pluralist culture of modern Brazil. It also gives outsiders a view inside of a ritualistic, non-Western culture and that is why it was and is so important to cinema.


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