Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.
United Kingdom/Russia/France/Italy/The Netherlands, 1992. Adventure Pictures, Lenfilm Studio, Mikado Film, Rio, Sigma Film Productions, British Screen Productions. Screenplay by Sally Potter, based on the novel by Virginia Woolf. Cinematography by Aleksei Rodionov. Produced by Christopher Sheppard. Music by David Motion, Sally Potter. Production Design by Ben Van Os, Jan Roelfs. Costume Design by Sandy Powell, Dien van Straalen. Film Editing by Herve Schneid.
Deliciously adapting Virginia Woolf’s groundbreaking fantasy novel, Sally Potter’s feature debut is a feast for all senses. Tilda Swinton, previously known mainly as Derek Jarman’s muse, deservedly broke into the international spotlight with her performance as the title character. Orlando is a sixteenth-century boy who spends his days lounging around and writing lovelorn poetry, becoming a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I and respecting her wish that he never grow old and wither away. He takes her instructions so close to heart that he literally stays the same age for four hundred years, and somewhere in the middle he turns into a woman. Swinton is brilliant and believable as both genders, a man who thinks his life is so difficult but is really just feckless, then a woman who has to make the best of things while dealing with the limitations that are put upon women’s lives in general. The costumes and sets are unbelievably plush (especially considering the tiny budget that Potter had to work with), and Woolf’s best prose is brought to the screen with exceptional zeal.
Academy Award Nominations: Best Art Direction; Best Costume Design