25 May 2009

Orlando (starring Tilda Swinton)

I'm not a fan of Virginia Woolf's novels, and it would never have occurred to me to buy any of the film adaptations of them. However, we were given 'Orlando' from a relative who received it as a free DVD with a Saturday newspaper, and finally decided to sit down and watch it.

I have to say, it was one of the most bizarre films I have ever seen. I gather that it's a clever adaptation of Woolf's novel of the same name, but I am not inspired to read it, having seen this. The fact that the male lead is played by a woman (and Queen Elizabeth by a man) turns out to be one of the least strange parts of it.

Tilda Swinton stars as the young nobleman Orlando, in a historical panoramic play that begins in the court of Queen Elizabeth (Quentin Crisp) I where he longs for love and freedom. However, he is cursed to remain at the same age forever. The story then leaps forward across the centuries, about fifty years at a time, showing new aspects of life and attitudes to women - and featuring Orlando at the same age each time.

The scenery is very good, the costumes stunning, and taken as snapshots of society through the ages, it’s quite an interesting production. But as a story, it is strangely surreal to have the same person appearing in different roles, never growing any older, and then making an even more dramatic and unexpected change in Central Asia, part-way through the film.

There are one or two mildly amusing moments, but there is also some violence which did not appeal to me at all. There were also some decidedly ‘adult’ scenes which, I would have thought, should raise the rating to at least 12 rather than the actual PG rating given in the UK (The US rating is PG-13, which I felt more appropriate).

The blurb on the back of the DVD calls 'Orlando' a ‘brilliantly original story of self-discovery, romance and adventure’. That much, I acknowledge, is true. And the movie was very well done. It seems to have won great acclaim from the critics, too… but it didn’t do anything at all for me, other than leave me faintly puzzled.

Not really recommended.

Review copyright Sue's DVD Reviews

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