Thursday, January 20, 2005

Orlando (1992)

Writer/Director: Sally Potter
Release: Available on DVD

My first film of Sally Potter’s was her newest film “Yes.” When I met with her in Telluride, I was in complete awe at her writing ability and her clear focus of vision. Now, after seeing Orlando, I hope that I can once again meet with her to discuss this film. I think that I have to add Sally Potter on my list of favorite directors.

The Story

Based on Virginia Wolf’s novel Orlando, the story follows a mythical character who lives for 400 years as both a man and woman. We first find Orlando (Tilda Swinton) in Elizabethan England where he is made a favorite of the Queen. He is given the title to a home with the promise that he will never age, never fade and never die. The rest of the film follows Orlando as he eventually becomes a woman and ultimately writes a book about his/her life.

The Film

I was incredibly impressed by this film. I really think that Sally Potter understand image and word and how they work together and the importance of both. Her ability to meld word and image as poetry is simply amazing. Even when there is no dialogue, the action in the scene seems to form poetry on its own. The most apparent example of this was the winter scene where almost all the actors were on ice skates, a choice that allowed them to seem as though they were floating across the ice. There also seemed to be a color tonal change as the film progressed, the most significant of which was when Orlando made the transition from male to female.

I was also quite impressed with the way that Potter transitioned through time, though I wish that she would have spent a little more time getting us from the 1850’s to modern times. I haven’t read the book so I don’t know if the choice of not focusing on the fact that Orlando was essentially immortal was a choice of Wolf’s or Potters, but either way, I really thought it was a wise decision to make. Orlando seemed to be a wonderful character who lived with the circumstances that he/she is given.

I can’t wait to see her new film “Yes” again and I hope to be able to see many more films by this wonderful director.


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