Our Rating: ★★★★☆
L Factor: Gender Bender
Short Take: Orlando (Tilda Swinton) lives for 400 years and moves between female and male identities.
Alternate Titles:
Year: 1992
Duration: 95 min
Language: UK, Russia, France, Italy, Netherlands/English
MPAA: Not Rated
Director: Sally Potter
Writer: Sally Potter, Virginia Woolf
Starring: Tilda Swinton, Billy Zane, Quentin Crisp, John Bott, Elaine Banham, Anna Farnworth, Sara Mair-Thomas, Anna Healy, Dudley Sutton, Simon Russell Beale, Matthew Sim, Jerome Willis, Viktor Stepanov, Charlotte Valandrey, Mary MacLeod

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Orlando

It’s the year 1600, and Queen Elizabeth I (Quentin Crisp) takes a shine to Orlando (Tilda Swinton, Female Perversions), a young nobleman. She tells him ‘do not fade, do not wither, do not grow old,’ and he doesn’t. Orlando stays youthful for the next 400 years.

Orlando (played by a woman) soon falls in love with Princess Sasha (Charlotte Valandrey), but when the romance doesn’t work out, he stays away from women for the rest of the century. Orlando just doesn’t understand them.

In the 1700s, he experiences the horrors of war, disliking the role of ‘a real man,’ and the next morning wakes up female. In this self aware film, Orlando tells us, ‘Same person. No difference at all. Just a different sex.’

Swinton is beautifully androgynous, but Orlando finds out that life as a woman is in fact very different. She is erased as a person, and in 1850, her property is taken away since she has neither father nor husband. By the 1990s that has changed, and she no longer feels trapped by destiny.

Based on the novel by Virginia Woolf, the best way to describe this film is that it is magical, as well as lush in its cinematography and costuming. It’s one that is a bit confusing at times, but mesmerizing with its imagery and treatment of gender construction. (AB)