The famously androgynous Tilda Swinton stars as the gender changing, eponymous Orlando. 84 years since the original book, penned by Virginia Woolf, was published and 20 years since Sally Potter’s screen adaptation was released, Orlando still receives hugely mixed reviews. The film explores four centuries of societies attitude towards gender from the 16th century and the reign of Quentin Crisp’s Queen Elizabeth I when she commands Orlando “Do not fade, do not whither, do not grow old.” through to the 20th century, during which time, Orlando physically changes into a woman. From falling in love with Charlotte Valandrey’s Princess Sasha to a brief encounter with Billy Zane’s Marmaduke Bonthrop Shelmerdine.
Though the storyline often baffles audience the pure might of this film is found within the art department and is showcased in the Blu-ray version. It is clear that the costumes and set have been meticulously laboured over, emphasizing the period of time in which each scene is set in. Notably, the location where the scenes for Constantinople were filmed and the abundant costumes worn by the whole cast. These aspects create a feast for the eyes, allowing the audience to indulge in the richness of the visual spectacular. The work that had been put in culminated in the film being nominated for Academy Awards in Art Direction and Costume Design in 1993.
I wouldn’t say this is the best film ever made, however, I would recommend that everyone see it at least once in their life. It is not like every other film, it breaks the rules and defies conventions. This is where people are quick to criticise, they find it uncomfortable to watch the fourth wall being broken and although this can be surreal I believe it is enlightening to watch a film that does not try to draw you in but instead purposely excludes you, making you a viewer.
Though the bonus features on the Blu-ray are interesting, they are no different to the existing DVD features. However, the image and sound quality have dramatically increased, allowing the film to be watched as it should be seen, enhancing all the work that had been put into the aesthetic.
Director: Sally Potter
Writers: Sally Potter, Virginia Woolf (novel)
Stars: Tilda Swinton, Billy Zane, Quentin Crisp
Runtime: 94 min
Country: UK, Russia, France, Italy, Netherlands