Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Love Without Boundaries: Orlando Brings The Virginia Woolf Novel To Screen Well.

The Good: Plot, Character, Sets, Direction, Costumes
The Bad: Occasionally Pointless, Breaks in the "fourth wall"
The Basics: Cerebral, beautiful and populated by interesting characters, Orlando is definitely worth your time!

Orlando, I've discovered, is a "take it or leave it" film; people either like it or they don't, there's not much middle ground. My opinion on it wavers slightly with my mood, but I've yet for it to waver so far that I wouldn't recommend it. The film Orlando is based upon the book Orlando (click here for my review!) by Virginia Woolf. However, the film is much more clear and works in some ways better than Woolf's original narrative.

Orlando is simply one of the most beautiful films ever filmed. The costumes are gorgeous, the scenery is lush and beautifully captured, the make-up is exquisite. Orlando reminds the viewer why awards are given out for things like hair styling and cinematography. Outside simply being beautiful, there is much to recommend the movie.

First off, Orlando is one of the few films that comes easily to mind that has a terrific plot. Things happen in the movie and they are well paced enough that it keeps the interest up. By the end of the movie, there's a sense that there was a beginning that led to an end and that the characters moved them there. Such is rare in today's movies.

The Lord Orlando begins in the sixteenth century as a nobleman who is impressed into the service of Queen Elizabeth I. The queen, as she dies, charges Orlando with the task of not aging. From that point, Orlando ceases to age and focuses on the important things in life: treachery, women, sleep and poetry. Orlando evolves through time without aging and through England's ages, growing as a person through criticism and travels abroad.

After witnessing a battlefield death in the 1700s, the Lord Orlando mysteriously awakens as the Lady Orlando and utters one of the best lines about gender differences of all time. She returns to England to resume her life and is met with problems of being unaging and a woman.

That's not to say everything makes neat and tidy sense: Orlando lays upon a moor for 100 years and it's difficult to suspend disbelief to believe that no one finds her there. But in all of the important ways, the film flows well with vibrant characters experiencing intriguing events.

The film is discovering self by being the other. The flipping of genders is done with ease and sophistication, that is, in an adult manner. There is a surreal effect to much of the film, especially the shifts in time. The surreal nature has to do with the fact that the film is based on a novel by Virginia Woolf and Woolf's fascination with surrealism.

Which leads me to my only real beef with the movie. There's the occasional moment that seems random and out of place, like the well established shot of a person frozen in ice carrying fruit. There are these moments that do not fit. Also, the film breaks through the fourth wall at times, moments when Orlando looks at the audience and speaks directly at the viewer that I find unsettling.

Otherwise, Orlando is a film well worth the viewing!

For other films with surreal aspects, please check out my reviews of:
Shutter Island


For other film reviews, please visit my index page for an organized listing by clicking here!

© 2010, 2001 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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