Unmasking the Metropolis: An Interrogation of Modernity in Orfeu Negro (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 its imagery of confinement, tension-filled editing schemes, vertical framing and an aesthetics of darkness. Representing the modern forces of Rio de Janeiro’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)
Pages (from-to)245-270
Number of pages26
JournalBulletin of Spanish Visual Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2023


  • Carnival
  • Carnivalesque
  • City
  • Institutional sites
  • Marcel Camus
  • Mikhail Bakhtin
  • Modernity
  • Myth
  • Orfeu Negro (1959)
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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