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parrot_knight [userpic]

Cocteau and the Doctor

December 21st, 2008 (10:46 am)

I'm sure that cineastes already know about the borrowings from Jean Cocteau's Orphée (1949) throughout Doctor Who; but I only saw this film for the first time last night. Orphée's insistence on concentrating stolidly on one concrete issue at a time reminded me somewhat of Ian Chesterton; William Russell lacks much of Jean Marais's passion and anger, but the parallels are still there. The scene where Orphée wakes up in a quarry, presumably on the borders of this and the other world, anticipates a lot of Who by necessity, but the mirror under the sand was borrowed by The Deadly Assassin (where the Doctor is stalked by someone who has cast themselves as his Death, though not quite in Cocteau's sense) and the image of Heurtebise, driving up in the Princess's car, was surely being cited by Alan Wareing in The Greatest Show in the Galaxy, with the Chief Clown driving around in a hearse.

The most flagrant motif is the idea that mirrors are gateways into the other world. The Princess and other emissaries of Death travel through mirrors as the Tharils do in Warriors' Gate. Orphée is enabled to travel through the mirrors in part by putting on Cegeste's rubber gloves (the Princess had forgotten her own) - much as the Doctor's hand has been changed by the time winds; and in part by blocking out the concerns of our world, much as Biroc urged the Doctor and Romana to "Do nothing" to escape the slave ship. There are inexplicable winds in the Otherworld of Orphée, too, and in the wartime ruins which pass for the world of the dead - which is not Hell - a thousand and more gateways.


(Deleted comment)
Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: December 21st, 2008 04:26 pm (UTC)

No, I'm not being sarcastic. You are right about the age of the symbolism - I'm sure there are examples in mediaeval romance, on which Orphée draws.

Posted by: Virgers! How are we doing with those explosives? (tree_and_leaf)
Posted at: December 21st, 2008 07:29 pm (UTC)

It's all so clear, now ;)

Posted by: parrot_knight (parrot_knight)
Posted at: December 21st, 2008 07:47 pm (UTC)


Paul Joyce, who directed Warriors' Gate, was very learned in the ways of European cinema. He's collaborated more recently on a book with David Hockney, I think. He's on the commentary track for Warriors' Gate when it turns up on the E-Space box set, and I look forward to seeing what he actually has to say.

David Maloney, director of The Deadly Assassin, liked European cinema too - it's well-known that the opening of Genesis of the Daleks was remodelled by him as a homage to Bergman's The Seventh Seal, which I've not yet seen properly.