- Orlando is the second feature of Sally Potter and is the first great artistic success of a young Tilda Swinton (aged 32 years) in the lead.
- Swinton was coming off her phase and period of work with avant-garde artist and director Derek Jarman – certainly avant-garde is how you can describe not only Orlando but much of career of Swinton (aside from some big blockbusters here and there).
- Swinton plays Orlando- addressing the camera directly. The film is broken up with a series of formal chapter titles marking different times and forms of Orlando– “1600 Death” and “1610 Love” “1650 Poetry” and “1700 Politics” and so on. This is a wildly ambitious work- shapeshifting and time traveling.
- Swinton is not only one of her generation’s most talented actors- but she is also perfectly cast as the “androgynous” (in the text)- David Bowie-like Orlando— “ambiguous sexuality”. Each iteration of Swinton has a new shade of eye color as well.
- Orlando is also memorable for the costume design work from the great Sandy Powell (who also worked with Jarman- but did her best work here, and in Hugo, The Irishman, The Favourite, Interview with a Vampire and Carol).
- A strong painting in snow at the funeral with the line of characters dressed in black at the 13-minute mark
- Swinton’s Orlando breaking the fourth way again saying “a man must follow his heart” is a marvelous commentary on gender politics
- Fade to white in winter as an ellipsis
- Potter has a penchant for fabulous closeups in Orlando and who could blame her with a muse as captivating as Swinton. The only actor shown in closeup actually is Swinton as she stares down the camera complaining about “the treachery of women”.
Potter has a penchant for fabulous closeups in Orlando and who could blame her with a muse as captivating as Swinton
- Peter Greenaway (another British avant-garde auteur) feels like an influence with the symmetrical setting of the frames. Indeed, Greenaway’s go-to production design team- Ben van Os and Jan Roelfs- are Potter’s collaborators on Orlando.
an immaculate cinematic painting
- Tilda in the mirror at the 58-minute mark- “same person- no difference at all- just a different sex”- this is an aspiring undertaking with the seemingly unadaptable Virginia Woolf material.
The “1750 Society” section is Sofia Coppola’s (over a decade prior of course) Marie Antoinette with the manicured interior design.
- Potter’s Camera swings behind Tilda like a pendulum. Orlando is now a woman- and three men discuss women in front of her – Potter uses this shot three times in total- one later with Billy Zane’s character.
The sublime shot of the wide dress between the hedges of the garden maze at the 70-minunte mark
- “1850 sex”—the film then skips the next date/time marker title for The Great War—this is the twentieth century and the title reads “birth” instead.
The handsome white coverings on the exterior of the estate at the 87-minute mark
Potter ends the film brilliantly with one of the greatest stares at the camera this side of The 400 Blows. And this shot choice is set up formally over the entire work.