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Jean Cocteau “Orphée” (1950) – Radio Transmissions

May 22, 2013

Radio transmissions from the film “Orpheus” by Jean Cocteau. Obviously subtitled translations of original foreign-language dialogue inevitably will vary, however the section of dialogue most relevant to EVP research, and to the ideas discussed in “Rorschach Audio”, are the lines subtitled in this video as (referring to the radio messages) “Where could they be coming from, Heurtebise? They’re on no other station. I’m certain they’re meant for me”. As described in the “Rorschach Audio” publications, the same dialogue is translated by Carol Martin-Sperry (in the English language publication of Cocteau’s original screen-play) as “Where could they be coming from? No other station broadcasts them. I feel certain they are addressed to me personally”. Cocteau confirmed this sound imagery was “inspired by the BBC broadcasts of the occupation” – by the mysterious and enigmatic radio transmissions which carried coded messages from the British military to French resistance fighters during WW2. The hypothesis floated by “Rorschach Audio” is that Cocteau’s sound design appropriated and alluded to what may have been common experiences – that wartime radio listeners and (historic and contemporary) EVP enthusiasts may have shared a tendency to perceive cryptic voice transmissions as though such transmissions had some supernatural aspect, and as though such transmissions are or were addressed to them personally (however, at the risk of stating the more-than-obvious, the main difference between EVP research and Cocteau’s sound imagery is that the latter never tried to convince the bereaved of any allegedly literal truth).

In “The Periodic Table” the Italian former partisan Primo Levi also recalled an “intricate universe of mysterious messages, morse tickings, modulated hisses, deformed, mangled human voices which pronounced sentences in incomprehensible languages or in code… messages of death… the radiophonic Babel of war”; and during WW2 the philosopher AJ Ayer worked for SOE and for MI6, working with exactly the kind of radio traffic that Cocteau’s sound imagery drew upon. Compare and contrast this material with the “Rorschach Audio” project’s treatment of the wartime work of BBC Monitoring Service supervisor and post-war art historian EH Gombrich (see every published version of “Rorschach Audio”, 1999 through 2012, and earlier posts – see below).

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