Testament of Orpheus (1960) Script


The film producer can make many people dream the same dream together.

At the same time he can show realistically... unreal fantasy.

In short, an admirable vehicle for poetry.

My film is just a strip-tease show where I take off my body to reveal my soul.

For there is a vast shadow public avid for the truth which will one day be the sign of this era.

Here, then, is a poet's legacy to the youth which has always supported him.

As for my mortarboard I'll send it to the time from which I managed to escape.

The professor, please.

What are you?

Are you his son?

My father was an architect.

I'd like to be a professor but I can't be yet.

Very well then...

I'd forgotten my gloves.

I'd have to frighten him again.

Excuse me.

How charming!

This was my second meeting with a person whose destiny I was illogically complicating.

Don't be afraid.

I'm wearing this for a bet.

Is that the professor in the invalid chair?

Yes, sir.

Can you explain...

Impossible. May I ask him something?

The professor can neither hear nor speak.

When he was small his mother had a shock... and knocked him on his head.

He never suffered from it... but one day...

A mistake!

The professor's life hung on a thread.

It broke.

At last I had the box which was to set me free.

I caressed it lovingly.

It's nothing.

I'll close my eyes... then we can go on.

An injection, professor?

No, just leave me alone.

I'll be better in a moment.

It's because of that fall.

You never know what will happen on account... of these stupid accidents.

The baby professor ought to have had another fall but the eternal had made me responsible for it.

Don't you recognize me?

It seems to me...

Try hard.

Didn't I see you in my youth?

That's it.

I was only 13 but I remember.

I was frightened to death.

I'd like to understand...

Professor... you're probably the only person in the world who wouldn't try to understand and who's capable of understanding the incomprehensible.

I wanted to know too much.

I was foolish and I'm paying for it.

I wandered off into space-time.

I was looking for you.

This is the costume of the period where a dangerous adventure took me.

What year is it?


Hell! If I've worked it out right... we should be in 2209.

I won't be living then.

Professor Langevin...

...was naïve like all scientists.

Only the 19th century believed in exact sciences.

Professor Langevin didn't know that time obeyed the same laws as space.

250 years have passed since you left but your return cancels them.

And those 250 years don't concern either of us.

Might I ask how you've managed to travel through time?

Poets know a lot of things.

Perhaps more than we do.

Professor, it's not easy to explain the eternal... much less live in it.

It's complicated.

I've just seen you several times... not in chronological order at different ages.

Only a minute ago I saw you very old.

Your feeble hand dropped... this box.

I took it.

And I think I did you... and myself a service.

It's wonderful to know... that you are not just a humbug and that I'll overcome my difficulties.

Alas, I shall not be able to reveal my discovery.

But for you it would die with me.

Am I wrong?

That's fine, then.

Tell me, my dear sir... as man to man... did I die in your presence?

I have a very bad memory for the future.

You recognize these?

I think so.

Only powder counts.

It's because of them I am looking for you through time.

I believe they travel faster than light.

Let me be your guinea-pig.

It's my salvation.

My only way back.

Have you a gun?

Only a crossbow.

I have a pistol in my drawer.

A scientist has to.

You smoke? Certainly.

So as to smoke in 1770...

I had to invent the cigarette.

They told me it was ridiculous and would never catch on.

You know that for my experiment...

I must first kill you.


Sure you'll succeed?

No doubt at all.

I shall unfold time.

All your experience... will be wiped out.

Oh yes?

You're not afraid?



The professor fully understood that a mere change of clothes was not sufficient to ensure a change of time.

Good luck!

I owe you all!

But I'm not responsible for what happens.

I'll take the risk.

I had recognized the photo of Cégeste... from my film Orpheus.

I didn't like him.

I suspected he was trying to track me and I'd better not follow.

Fate let me think I was being imprudent... throwing away his picture.


You named me.

Hardly recognized you. You were blonde.

In a film.

But this is real life.

You were dead.

Like everyone.

Why come by sea?

Why! Always why.

Don't try to understand.

I've heard that before.

You wrote it.

Take this flower...

This flower is dead.

Aren't you a phenixologist?

What's that?

The science of dying and being born again.

I don't like that.

Come, let's be going.

Where to?

Don't ask questions.

Judith has cut off the head of Captain Nebuchadnezzar Holofernes.

A servant waits at the door of the room where it happened.

Judith is no longer the daughter of a rich banker.

She is the sarcophagus containing her own legend.

That is how she passes by moonlight before the sleeping guards.

Now... listen please, everybody!

Who was it who wove tapestry and unwove it again?


And who was she?

Penelope was the last trial Ulysses had to undergo.

Very good.

What does this tapestry show?

Judith and Holofernes.

And who made it?

Jean Cocteau.

Who is Jean Cocteau?

A violinist?

That's right.

And what sort of violin does he play on?

A Stra...

A Stra...

A Strad...

A Stratagem?

No, not a stratagem.

A Stradivarius.

Now let's clap hands for our little candidate.

Hurry up! The cock's crowing.

Turn night into day.

We'll see who gives orders... and who obeys them.

Yes, works of art make themselves.

They hate their parents.

They existed before the artist discovered them.

But always Orpheus and Oedipus...

I thought when I changed castles I'd change ghosts, and a flower would drive them away.

Don't insist.

An artist paints his own portrait.

You'll never paint this flower.

Blast and hell!

Aren't you ashamed?

It's up to you.

Show us what you can do.

"On our way."

"Where to?"

"The goddess."

"What goddess?"

"Some call her Pallas, others Minerva.

So be careful."

And if I refuse?


I don't advise you to disobey.

And the flower?

Give it to her. Goddesses are women after all.

I won't go.

"You left me alone where the dead aren't dead."


"I obey."


Hello what?

Please excuse me.

I must be the victim of an hallucination.

What are you doing here?

I ask questions.

We are a court of inquiry before which you'll have to explain your activities.

Do you plead guilty or not guilty?

Read the charges.

You are accused of innocence... which is to say you're capable of any crime instead of just one and liable to fall under our jurisdiction.

You are also accused of trying to enter illegally a world not your own.

Guilty or not guilty?

Guilty in both cases.

I'm haunted by crimes I have not committed.

I've often tried to jump over the mysterious wall on which men write their loves and their dreams.


Through boredom and dislike of habits.

Also through disobedience and that spirit of creation which is the acme of contradiction inherent is us.

If I am not mistaken...

Disobedience is a religion with you.

Without it what would children, heroes... and artists do?

Count on their lucky stars.

We are not here to make speeches.

Put that flower on the table.

Where did you get it?

Cégeste gave it me.


Isn't that a temple in Sicily?

It's also the poet in my film.

Before, it was the name of an angel in my poem.

What is a film?

A film is a petrifying source of thought.

It brings dead acts to life.

It makes it possible to give... apparent reality to the unreal.

What is unreal?

What is beyond our limits.

So there are people like a sleeping invalid dreaming they are healthy.

Excellent definition of a poet.

And what is a poet?

One who, by making poems... uses a language neither alive nor dead which few people speak... and few understand.

And why do they speak this language?

To get in touch with their peers in a world where exhibitionism consists of revealing one's soul and is carried on by the blind.

Who are you?

His adopted son.

My real name is Edward. I'm a painter.

He says you're a poet and your name is Cégeste.

Is Cégeste a nickname?

Pen name would be nearer the mark.

Your French language is very subtle.

A few minutes ago you used... an idiom you have no right to use in this world.

True enough.

I did so in a moment of anger.

Don't do it again.

Who gave you the right to appear to this man... and give him this flower?

This flower was dead.

I was ordered to give it him so he could revive it.

Can you give proof of your powers?

Disappearing won't convince us.

Disappearing's not nice.

No more than...

the phenomenon which makes men who love free the loved one.

You're mad!

Sorry! It happens to me too.

I advise you not to make heavy humour... about things which may reveal human vanity.

Have no fear on that score.

We want proof of your powers.

I share his opinion... that what can be proved is vulgar.

You must take my word.

Trying to teach me?

That's the end.

I've noted that.

I'm listening.

Did you write...

"This body which holds us does not know our being.

"That which inhabits us is inhabited.

"And these bodies inside one another are the bodies of eternity."

Yes, I wrote it.

And who told you this?


These things you say.

No one.

You lie!

All right, if you agree we are subject to a force which guides and dictates to us.

It's possible he's mad.

Or an intellectual.

Leporello pretended to be his master. The poet's like that.

Stop chattering.

And listen to me.

I was humbly explaining.

You don't have to be humble.

Just reply to our questions.

You're just a mixture of forests and swamps and rivers populated by enormous beasts which eat one another.

Don't try to be clever.

Your address?

I live here with a friend whose host I am.

What's that?

There aren't any here where we are.

We're nowhere.

And yet I've just seen a tapestry decorating the house...

I'm speaking of.

You may well have seen this tapestry... but that's because we wanted you to see it.

We can't help your credulity.

Bring the witness.

Where am I?

That is question unworthy of a man of science.

It's the sort of thing a pretty woman would say on waking.

I was asleep in bed...

You still are asleep, professor.

You just don't dream us.

You're occupying one of those folds in time which you have been the studying.

Research which honours your intelligence...

but of which we disapprove.

When you wake up... you'll remember us as if we were people in your dream.

You know this man?

You've a short memory, professor.

Of course, you're asleep.

You've just destroyed my Louis XV chrysalis, cape, boots, jabot, white wig, whip, spurs and all.

I don't complain.

You warned me you couldn't be responsible.

Why are you here?

Here, gentlemen, it is I who give orders.

So be quiet and answer my questions.

How... did you meet this man?

Quite simple. So you say.


I was giving up hope of completing my methods of resurrection and I'd have given up if this man, endowed with powers of which I know nothing had not left our continuum to make a journey through eternity and returned from my future to my present proving I had succeeded.

I made the experiment on him.

I'd add that for fear of losing my colleagues' esteem I threw my discovery into the Seine which flows past my window.

So you succeeded in restoring a man lost in time?

Only just.

I saved him from his own trap where he had felt.

And made me fall into another... the sort of twilight in which I move since I left your laboratory.

I'm sorry about that.

It's possible my discovery is not perfect.

I'm glad I destroyed it.

What form... does this discovery take?

A box of bullets that travel faster than light.

It was the box I threw away.

Let's hope there'll be no ill effects.

It was the wise thing to do.

By proudly disorganizing... even the unsuccessful measures... taken throughout your world's history... men run the risk of breaking a chain... and call it progress.

But you are condemning all of science.

What you call science!

There is one of the soul which is more important.

I beg of you...

Excuse me.

What could you say if you had to defend this man?

That he is a poet, which makes him indispensable though I don't know what for.

May I now ask you a question?

We'll see if I can reply.

Mere curiosity of a man of science...

Here it is... what time is it?

There is no time, professor.

Go on sleeping.

You are free.

Thank you.

I seem to have difficulty...

a sort of fatigue...


Sleep, professor.

I want you to.

My respects to you, madam.

I'm sleeping.

Pleasant dreams.

I'm well aware that your road is a labyrinth far distant from ours... although the two overlap... and though you might discover someone to correct your disobedience of terrestrial laws... this was not due to a distraction of the unknown... but a sort of supreme indulgence... which you sometimes abuse... and which you may lack one day.

If I exceed my responsibilities... it is because I wanted to warn you... before consulting your guide on his privileges... and responsibilities.

I don't understand.

You don't have to.

Don't play the village idiot.

I think you understand very well but are playing the fool so as not to own up.

But, madam...


Consider yourself lucky that the court is being indulgent.

Come here.

Yes... you.

Are you sure you didn't take the initiative in merging these personalities because having two annoyed you?

Weren't you tempted to make only one at the service of this man who is not only... your father but your adopted father?

Madam, you must be informed regarding the infinity of reigns and orders which makes it difficult to know what persons should obey others and who should be obeyed.

Quite so.

What strange road did you take in order to appear?

Through fire and water.

The result, I presume... of laws of which I am the slave and must obey.

Since you persist I would at least like to know what is the extent of your power of metamorphosis.

Don't look astonished.

I'm speaking of the change of an orchid into a death head.

This macabre masquerade corresponded, I suppose, to phenomena of a resurrectional nature.

Was it just to impress this man... or in some way to warn him?

No, this is a ceremonial rite of which I can say no more.

The accused refuses to reply.

Take a note of that.

Have you anything further to say in your defence?

If I deserve punishment there is none worse than living between two elements.

Or, in your terms, between two reigns.

In film language, "false colours".

I'd give anything to walk the earth again instead of losing myself in the universe.

Outside our competence.

The court will decide.

The rogatory commission condemns you... to the sentence of life.

The minimum.

And at your age.

Your flower.

And the princess...

You know that she claimed to transgress the laws of time.

And Orpheus?

He didn't survive.

And Eurydice went back to hell.

A great human voice said...

"Don't spit against the wind."

Take the flower.

I don't dare to.

It's not the first time or the last I take this flower and give it back.

This time I understand the courage of your act and the risk you run... she and you.

We can't be worse off.

What have you been condemned to?

To judge others.

To be judges.

Not amusing.

I find this rogatory commission suspect.

Our works kill their authors and get away.

But... the creatures of our imagination are still suspicious about their origins.

I wonder...

Best not to.

I wonder if you yourself...

It's possible.

Sometimes I'm annoyed with you.

Sometimes I'm glad I live outside the world where I was.

But I'd like to save you from your situation.

But we know nothing of yesterday and tomorrow you humans are subjected to them, and to succeed I must guide you or rather follow you through obstacles after which I shall obtain what I want.

Couldn't you enlighten me as to the obstacles?

I don't know them myself.

I'm at sea.

The only thing I know is that this flower is made of your blood and follows your destiny.

I've already told you too much.

Just obey.

I'll obey.

Your Ladyship?

Who's the murderer?

I don't know, My Lady.


You're making me read right through a book which will only be published in 70 years.

Excuse me, My Lady.

Damn your excuses!

Who are these gentlemen?

What gentlemen, My Lady?

These two strangers who walk in my house.

I see no one, My Lady.

You think I'm mad?

Oh, My Lady!

You can go.

What times we live in!

Everything's going badly today.

Is it she?

Don't be ridiculous. She is just out of date.

You should know that can happen.

Very odd dogs.


Is it she?

No, that's Isolde.

She's on every boat looking for Tristan.

I think I went with Cégeste past the Saint-Pierre Chapel that I painted in 1957 as my own coffin presented to the Beaulieu fishermen in memory of my past youth and to the fishermen of Villefranche, where I lived.

Well, what is it?

Didn't you see him?

Just as I see you.

He ignored me.

You said if you met him you'd cut him.

He hates me.

He has reason to. He's taken your insults.

I'll kill him.

You may be immortal, but if you do you'll find nobody else.

Where was he going?

More questions!

He's probably going where you come from.

You spend your time trying to be. That turns you away from life.

Mustn't keep the gods waiting.

I am the key to dreams... the sad column... the Virgin in the Iron Mask.

Is that she?

Your fault, Peleponnesus.

Other dangers threaten for at night statues are dressed in black and murder travellers.

I myself am not a bust...

I've enough sea spume in my veins to understand wave language.

Washing their linen on their knees they're insulting you, making fun of you.

Intellectual lovers.

Autograph, please?

Who is the idol who is eating autographs?

A machine for making you famous in a minute.


One must be known... Uneasy!

In advanced countries, the working days are short.

What's coming out?

Novels, poems, song, and so on.

The machine stops till autograph hunters feed it.

Then it digests, meditates and sleeps.

Six eyes and four mouths.

Don't ask me why.

Well, I must leave you now.

Sorry, it's orders.

Who gives them?

Even if I knew I wouldn't say.

Stay with us, Cégeste.

You think you can live with men for they condemn to death?

Don't leave me.

Anyhow you must have a mirror to disappear.

Mirrors reflect too much.

They think they are profound.

How will you go?

Close your eyes.

Open them.

Where are you?

Very far and very near.

On the other side of the medal.

I've said it often enough.

"Aren't you tired of trying to understand for 70 years?"

Where are you, Cégeste?

"Where you put me."

"Where you put me."

I was so tired I though I could hear the women kneeling making fun of me at their washing.

If you'd be kind enough to wait a minute, the Minister will receive you.

I waited.

I waited.

I waited.

In a few minutes... the President will receive you.

I waited... I was still waiting.

If you would be so kind to wait a few minutes...

His Serene Highness's first secretary will receive you.

There were a lot of minutes and I waited still.

If you will wait a few minutes...

His Majesty will receive you.

Ifyou wait long enough... you change into a waiting room.

Give up all hope.

I was afraid of it.

Should I sign my name?

Not necessary.

Go straight in.

Lazarus did not smell too good either.

There is even a picture with Martha and Mary covering their noses...

Excuse me...

How horrible!

How horrible... how horrible!

Pretend to weep, friends, since the poets are only pretending to be dead.

The Sphinx, Oedipus... what we wanted to know... it is possible to meet him, one day without seeing it.

From this walking sleep I awoke on a road and as I was wondering which way to go I thought I heard the motorcyclists of my film Orpheus.

I knew theirjob.

I had to suffer the same fate as Cégeste.

But I was wrong...

They were speed cops.

Your papers? Why?

A man on foot is normally suspect.

Hurry! Follow me.

The earth, after all, is not the place for you.

Ask him for a signature.

Well, what d'you know!

So there we are.

A joyous wave has just swept over my parting film.

Ifyou didn't like it, I'm sorry for I put all into it like all the workers of my team.

My flower is a hibiscus flower.

Ifyou recognized one or two famous actors, they weren't in the film because they are famous but because they suit their parts and are my friends.