Unmasking the Metropolis: An Interrogation of Modernity in Orfeu Negro/Black Orpheus (1959)

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Through carnival’s protagonism and positioning within the metropolis, Orfeu Negro defamiliarizes the urban experience and depicts urban modernity as a hellish force through imagery of confinement, tense-filled editing schemes, vertical framing, and an aesthetics of darkness. Representing the modern forces of Rio’s institutional sites in mythic terms, Orfeu’s katabasis into the city’s infernal underworld exposes the hollowness of civil services, renders bankrupt the state facilitation of citizen welfare, and lays bare police oppression, crowd control, and racial divide. Via a nuanced rendition of Bakhtinian carnival, Orfeu Negro problematizes the status of modernity as a democratic project.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalBulletin of Spanish Visual Studies
StateAccepted/In press - 2022


  • Orfeu Negro
  • institutional sites
  • city
  • race
  • carnivalesque
  • Mikhail Bakhtin
  • carnival
  • myth
  • modernity
  • Black Orpheus

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