Overcoming European co-production pitfalls, Orlando provides exciting, wonderfully witty entertainment with glorious settings and costumes and Tilda Swinton’s sock performance in the title role.
Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel is structured around the intriguing notion of a character who lived for 400 years, changing sex in the course of time. Orlando is a youth who, in 1600, becomes the favorite of the aging Queen Elizabeth I and lives to tell the tale well into the 20th century.
Though she’s really too feminine to pass for a man in pic’s first half, Swinton is extraordinary as the eponymous Orlando, who frequently, in witty asides to the camera, takes the audience into his/her confidence.
The cast is uniformly strong, with Billy Zane very effective as a manly Yank and Quentin Crisp looking exactly right as the aging Queen Elizabeth.
Logistically, pic looks rich and expensive, with St. Petersburg locations standing in for medieval London in winter. Pic was also shot in Uzbekistan.
1993: Nominations: Best Art Direction, Costume Design