ORLANDO (1992)

(Prime/VOD) Somehow, I knew next-to-nothing about ORLANDO when I cracked open Virginia Woolf’s book roughly two years ago. Since then, it’s become a book I’ve extolled as brilliance I wish I’d encountered far earlier in my life.

Similarly, I came to Sally Potter’s adaptation only recently and, it too, is fantastic. However, it’s very difficult to discuss the particulars of its plot without divulging certain facets that make the book truly special, but here’s my attempt:

First and foremost: Swinton is absolutely perfect in this, and I love the audacity of how sparsely she’s adorned (except, of course, when she’s not). Obviously, it’s a role that rightly put Swinton in the limelight.

Second: Potter’s adaptation is more succinct, almost obscenely so as she could have given the scenes a bit more room to breathe, but instead she often races through the plot to the point where it feels more like a fever dream, as opposed to the lackadaisical pacing of the novel. The impact of which is felt nowhere harder than in Potter’s final act, which also bestows its own ending which, fair, it’s her film and all, but it’s -a lot-, and left a unique taste in my mouth.

Third: The gazes! They’re all amazing and all so wound with meaning, especially those that break the fourth wall.

Lastly: The cinematography and score. It has the formalistic trappings, portraiture stylings and sturdy tracking shots of a Greenaway film, but still engages with the action, as opposed to mannerly setting a tableau. Potter herself composed the music, which has a Nyman-esque minimalist flair that, yet again, engages more with the material than you’d expect.

In case you needed more coaxing: it’s Toby Jones’ first role and, despite that, if you’ve seen Toby Jones in anything, you know immediately that yes: that’s Toby Jones.

Trailer (a perfect three-act teaser):

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