Orlando

Director: Sally Potter
Year: 1992
Country: UK
Running time: 93 mins

Great Britain/Russia/France/Italy/The Netherlands
Production Co: Adventure Pictures (Orlando) Ltd/Lenfilm/Rio/Mikado Film/Sigma Filmproductions/British Screen
Producer: Christopher Sheppard
Screenplay: Sally Potter, based on the novel by Virginia Woolf
Editor: Herve Schneid
Photography: Alexei Rodionov (Eastmancolor)
Production design: Ben van Os, Jan Roelfs
Costumes: Sandy Powell, Dien Van Straalen
Sound editor: Martin Evans
Music: David Motion, Sally Potter, Fred Frith, David Belford

Cast
Orlando: Tilda Swinton
Shelmerdine: Billy Zane
The Khan: Lothaire Bluteau
Archduke Harry: John Wood
Sasha: Charlotte Valandrey
Nick Greene/Publisher: Heathcote Williams
Queen Elizabeth I: Quentin Crisp
James I: Dudley Sutton
King William of Orange: Thom Hoffman
Falsetto/Angel: Jimmy Somerville
Orlando's father: John Bott
Orlando's mother: Elaine Banham
Orlando's daughter: Jessica Swinton

Festivals: Venice (In Competition), Toronto, 1992. U.S., 1993

 

Fleeing through the centuries, Virginia Woolf's Orlando was a boy-girl on the run from sexual predestination. Changing gender as she careered through 400 years of English history, ‘he' became ‘she' partly in chameleon response to a new Enlightenment, partly for the intuitive hell (or heaven) or it...

Sally Potter's film of Orlando keeps the flickery serenity of the original. The changing tableaux, like animated lantern sides, shuttle us through the changing eras: Tudor England (Quentin Crisp as Queen Bess), Augustan tea parties (Ned Sherrin as Dr. Johnson), Victorian romance (Billy Zane as  Byronic heartthrob, plus billowing shirt and black locks) to a 20th century of world war, pregnancy, free love and dawning feminism... Swinton flings verbal asides and mini monologues boldly at the camera... Though each ensuing time-hop makes its social, cultural or gender-political point, from the male chauvinist clubbiness of the Augustan salons to the vaporous romanticism of Victorian times, nothing is laboured.

Potter's hurry-on direction and Swinton's sphinx like ethereality as a presence mean we seque into the next historical encounter before the ink is dry on the last one... The film's final scene, which could have been daft, instead defines and seals the film's style... It sounds winsome and preachy. Instead it is light, lithe and deliciously self-ironising. - Nigel Andrews, Financial Times, 11/3/93