Tilda Swinton gives a career-defining performance as an English nobleman, transcending time, mortality and gender
Swinton is luminous and thrilling
On the bed of Queen Elizabeth I – played by an exquisitely cast Quentin Crisp – beautiful, young nobleman Orlando is granted everlasting youth and beauty by royal decree. From there he begins a journey spanning 400 years through history to present-day England.
Gliding through barriers of time, gender and mortality as if they were invisible walls, Sally Potter's masterful adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s much-loved novel even manages to break down the constraints of adaptation itself. Orlando, like great cinema before it, offers a freedom and overwhelming feeling that anything could happen.
Potter’s film was a more delicate inclusion to the canon of New Queer Cinema of the early 90s and Tilda Swinton brought a queer kudos to the title role from her earlier collaborations as a young actress with Derek Jarman. Overlapping with that creative output, Orlando is the product of a 5-year collaborative process between Swinton and Potter, starting before a script was written.
Orlando premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 1992 where it won three awards and was nominated for the Golden Lion. Since then, much like its eponymous character, it barely seems to have aged a day.