Orlando (1992)

Orlando , directed by Sally Potter, is an exquisitely beautiful film. It lavishly covers the centuries from dying years of the Elizabethan era to the present whilst Tilda Swinton performs the chameleon title role.

Orlando’s youth is frozen when Elizabeth I promises him his familial home in return for his everlasting youth. The years wash over him, with only the change in costume indicating any change in time. He experiences the transition into civil war from the isolation of his manor and only leaves when harsh criticism of his writing makes familiar scenes uncomfortable. The change of scene to a hot, dusty and unknown East as Orlando becomes an ambassador appears more surprising than the following sex change the eponymous character then experiences. Orlando must then struggle with new restrictions on her life as a female and the lowered expectations of others.

The film regularly breaks the fourth wall and segues smoothly between the centuries as Tilda Swinton moves through mazes and rooms in the house, employing the same characters for different roles. This experimental filming makes the unusual and (partially) unexplained plot much easier to accept and invest in. Orlando’s romances with both Sasha and Shelmadine are tender and yet bitter-sweet as the audience is aware that they will always remain apart from the world. This separation is visually encouraged by Swinton’s unusual and androgynous looks which create a timeless aura, inescapable despite the luxurious clothes.

Orlando is a film I plan to watch again soon and somthing which I believe will improve with every rewatch. I would recommend it without a doubt.

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