Testament of Orpheus (1960)
"Le testament d'Orphée, ou ne me demandez pas pourquoi!" (original title)

Not Rated  |   |  Biography  |  18 February 1960 (France)
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Ratings: 7.3/10 from 1,871 users  
Reviews: 22 user | 19 critic

The Poet looks back over his life and work, recalling his inspirations and obsessions.



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Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. See more awards »
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Director: Jean Cocteau


Complete credited cast:
Himself - the Poet


The poet Jean Cocteau is lost in space-time. He has been in the 18th century and is now turning up at different moments in professor Langevin's life. The professor has invented some bullets, which travel faster than light. With one of them he kills Cocteau, who is resurrected as his old self, but is still caught in the space between fantasy and reality. At a gypsy camp a woman saves a photo out of the fire and restores it. On the photo Cocteau recognizes Cégeste from his film Orphée. He tears the photo into pieces and throws it into the sea. Immediately Cégeste himself jumps out of the water. He brings Cocteau to a rogatory commission led by Heurtebise and The Princess from the film Orphée. Cocteau admits that he has constantly attempted to enter a world which is not his own, a world that is beyond the limits of man, and that disobedience is like a religion for him. The commission imposes on him the sentence of life. In a hall inside some stone ruins the goddess Athena kills Cocteau ... Written by Maths Jesperson {maths.jesperson1@comhem.se}

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis




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Release Date:

18 February 1960 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Le testament d'Orphée  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?


Cocteau's last film. See more »


Himself - the Poet: And the flower?
Cégeste: Take it to her. After all, the goddess is a woman and women never object to being offered flowers
See more »


Referenced in Discovering 'Evil Dead' (2002) See more »


Orphée et Eurydice
Composed by Christoph Willibald Gluck
See more »

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User Reviews

Symbolic surrealism
7 April 2012 | by (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK) – See all my reviews

I haven't seen any other features from Jean Cocteau, so many of the subtleties and references were lost on me. As such I didn't entirely understand all that occurred. It seems to be the final part in a loose trilogy of films based around the myth of Orpheus. In it, Cocteau himself plays a time-travelling poet, basically himself, who reflects on his life's works. He wanders a fantastical land and encounters various characters from his works of fiction. It's not a plot-driven film at all. It is more of a personal voyage of the director's. It was the last film he made and is clearly intended as a swansong, and a summary of his work.

The film often works best when it is at its most surreal. Many of the effects are extremely simple, yet beautifully executed. For instance the part where Cocteau reconstructs the flower bit by bit is very nice; likewise when Orpheus leaps out of the sea. Towards the end there is even a very striking invasion of the colour red, that can't help but be very memorable imagery. There are moments of the bizarre sprinkled throughout the picture. Like Cocteau himself says it is all cinematic poetry. Most of it was over my head I have to say but it was an interesting watch all the same.

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