PRINT Summer 1993


Sally Potter’s Orlando has a certain miraculous quality in that it makes a much-loved, phantasmagoric work of 20th-century fiction plausible in film terms while sticking to the book’s fantastic premise. Potter follows her hero/ine through the centuries, but Orlando remains unmarked by passing time except in the getting of wisdom—which involves. In this case, a change of sex. The film can be read, like the book, as a meditation on gender relations, inheritance, historical consciousness, and sexual identity, yet it’s pure fun, whimsical enough to feature Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth I and Tilda Swinton’s Orlando roaring into the 20th century on a motorbike.

Various compressions and croppings occur in Potter’s translation of book to film: Virginia Woolf depicts gender in Orlando as a quality subject to sudden reversals, not simply in Orlando him/herself but mirrored in every character

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