Le Sang d’un Poète (The Blood of a Poet) was the first film made by poet, playwright, novelist, painter,actor, set designer and film director Jean Cocteau in 1930. The film is a series of events, centred around a painter’s consciousness of the creative process and its agonizing effects on the poet/artist. The visual experiments of Cocteau gain a dark, surrealistic quality by the use of uncanny animation of body parts, such as the talking mouth of a painted face on a canvas or the animated sculpture that instructs the painter to plunge into a mirror- the world on the other side where dreams construct and deconstruct the creative process.
Of course the mirror here becomes a symbol of reality, of the illusion of representation and the surrealists’ obsession with imagination and dreams. At the same time it questions the narcissistic world of the artist and presents the fear of a fragmented self.
Inside the dark world where the poet plunges himself, he witnesses through a keyhole strange and nightmarish events, one of these being the figure of a mother whipping her little girl, while the child levitates up over the fireplace. For Cocteau the unexplicable and strange events signify that creativity and art, which are to be found in the underworld or in the world beyond the mirror, are dangerous and result in the artist’s suffering, pain and self-doubt.
The film reveals another preoccupation of surrealism, suicide and death. In the film a boy is killed by a snowball after he and a group of boys play with snow and in another scene, the poet while playing a game of cards shoots himself with a gun. Both of the scenes focus, in a highly theatrical manner, on the bleeding wound. Blood is suffering and especially here it depicts the suffering of the creative process. The film is of course a surrealistic experiment, but there seems to be, I think, a gothic sensitivity in the themes and the way the events are staged.
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