Orlando is a film adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel bearing the same name. In the 16th century court of Queen Elizabeth I (Quentin Crisp), a young aristocrat, Orlando (Tilda Swinton), is on a philosophical journey to find love and the meaning of life. The Queen leaves him with a strange bequest – land and a generous monetary gift on condition that he remains forever young, which he does, inexplicably.
For a couple of centuries, Orlando lives comfortably well. He also tries his hand at poetry and art, but when his poetry is rejected he takes up an ambassador post in Constantinople. After nearly losing his life there, and disillusioned and frustrated with the behaviour and thoughts of men he returns to Britain. Orlando is now a woman, after walking up one morning to find he has undergone a sex change. On her return home she finds that she faces a number of lawsuits that challenge her right and ownership of her inheritance given to her/him by the Queen.
The next two centuries with the court case, bad romances, and the wars during this period in British history take their toll on Orlando. She falls in love with an American, Shelmerdine (Billy Zane). We see her in the 1990s with a daughter and a book needing a publisher.
“Directed with sly grace and quiet elegance by Sally Potter, it is not about a story or a plot, but about a vision of human existence.”
— Roger Ebert
“This ravishing and witty spectacle invades the mind through eyes that are dazzled without ever being anesthetized.”
— Vincent Canby, The New York Times
“Rarely have source material, director, and leading actress been more in alignment than in Orlando.”
— Mathew Connolly, Slant Magazine
Did You Know?
The film Orlando is especially commended for its visual representation of Woolf’s 1928 novel of the same name. The remote city of Khiva, Uzbekistan was where the Constantinople section of the story was filmed, and features the 18th century Djuma Mosque. To help get into her character Orlando, costumes were rented from Bermans & Nathans in London. Review our Gay Themed Films Here