Costumes creatively reimagined through discarded objects, chilling operatic performances, and an experimental use of language within the filmic space come together in Alexander Kluge and Khavn’s Orphea. With images of decaying technology and misdirected bodily appetites, it seems led by a desire to create an emotive confusion parallel to what at times feels like the turbulent experience of modern life.
Orphea switches the roles of Orpheus and Eurydice in the famous ancient Greek myth and exports them to the surreal landscape of a contemporary rock opera. Lilith Stangenberg confidently takes centre stage as Orphea to vividly embody a tormented mythical figure. All the same, she grants a certain vulnerability necessary to portraying this character even in a contemporary adaptation.
Directors Alexander Kluge and Khavn have both always deeply engaged with poetry and music, which comes through clearly as the film uniquely interacts with sound rather than relegating it to a secondary position behind dialogue. The score engages with the narrative and highlights the Orphic relationship to music, central to the myth. While sound plays an essential role in this film, it outshines the visual elements.
Orphea’s unevenly stylised images upend each other indecisively. They are neither consistently uncomfortable nor relieved and sparked by contrasting sensations. While the film’s stylisation of its images verges on gratuitous, it succeeds in portraying a theatrical retelling of the myth of Orpheus. Many scenes pulsate with a definitive sense of place, whether from within a brothel or the underworld. Especially in the scenes of Stangenberg reciting lines of poetry and practising musical sequences that cut between imagined and symbolic scenes, the film appears to construct itself on the spot.
Orphea strives to confront the hubris of modern ambition that facilitates what appears like an ongoing moral and ethical decay. However, its presentation of these themes unwinds to reveal a somewhat listless elaboration of its purpose.
Orphea does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Berlin Film Festival 2020 coverage here.
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Watch the trailer for Orphea here: