Orlando begins his/her existence as a humble poet, who inherits some land, property, money and some timeless instructions from the dying Queen Elizabeth I. Essentially, the departing royal figure places either a curse, or a cerebral coronation, on the soul of the romantic and naïve youth, and so begins the quest for truth and transcendence by the recently-knighted Immortal One, Orlando.
200 years later, long past the Elizabethan Age, Orlando wakes up after living two lives as a man, and finds herself standing full-frontal nudity in front of a mirror, and states, “Same person. No difference at all. Just a different sex.” Huh…if only our own personal quests were so easy. We venture out into the world looking for that perfect soul mate, and often find ourselves facing that very mirror. They say that opposites attract, but often one is only looking for that which speaks its own language (and, yes, the “its” is intentional).
“…it is this idle passivity that leaves them at the mercy of what they fear most.”
Orlando is a beautiful film, which deviates, to a degree, from the Woolf novel in which it is based. Tilda Swinton, as the title character, delivers a subtle, ethereal and intelligent performance, shaped by a deep inner grace. Orlando is also a gloriously ahead-of-its-time novel, written by a woman that knew quite well about the eternal battle of the sexes, and the need for change, evolution, and, yes, improvisation in one’s life. If the story of Orlando is divided into separate sections of so-called polite society, as her character moves forward through time, the film is also heavily rooted in the journey of the soul. Indeed, the journey of a woman living in a man’s world, and desperately finding that to gain power, one just needs to understand the price to be paid, and what one really wants at the end of the day, is a journey taken by any underdog in a society corrupted by greed.
And that is the great hidden lesson of not only Orlando, but many films which have been covered in this column—what is the main character searching for? What is their journey all about? Who do they take with them? Who do they discard along the way? What is the true meaning of time and space? What happens when one stops time, and dwells within the great frozen moment of art? What happens next? How does one continue on past the hallowed gates of enlightenment? Ahhh…post-enlightenment. Always a mystery, eh?
We have come so far on this strange film expedition, but also appear as humble psychic urchins on a little celluloid adventure. Is that a gift? To see The Kingdom through the eyes of a child? Fuck me. I’m old, and desperately need bifocals. Alas, all is not lost as we knock on the door of the 50th edition, and enter within its long and dark chambers, awaiting the good word on what we have found in our search for lost cinematic treasures in the next edition, a special anniversary one at that, of Hidden Flick. Suffice to say, it required patience through quite a bit of improvising before one got to that sweet spot.