Pathway: \\\\\\\'I am rooted, but I flow\\\\\\\' -Conceptions of time and the conveyance of inner life in \\\\\\\'Orlando\\\\\\\' by Maire Connor

The central impulse of this pathway is to provide a conduit through which one may explore how the passing of time is expressed within Sally Potter's 1992 film 'Orlando', as a prominent theme of both the original novel and film. Furthermore, in acknowledgement of the disparities between the manner in which a visual medium and a written work respectively convey meaning, one is also drawn to the cinematic techniques utilised to communicate the eponymous hero/ine's inner thoughts, feelings and frustrations. The titular quotation, lifted from another of Woolf's novels, 'The Waves' is appropriated here to reflect upon the process of adaptation, particularly the ever-mutating, palimpsestic nature of a text (Woolf 2005: 86).

A4 colour printout picture on paper of Orlando leaning against oak tree writing

The motif of the oak tree occupies a prominent position within the film, as depicted in this set photography print-out of Tilda Swinton as Orlando leaning against its roots contemplatively [Set Photography, SPA0001314]. Woolf\'s novel is able to weave a rich tapestry of imagery through the boundless possibilities of language, yet film as a medium inevitably encounters spatial, temporal and economic limitations. As a result of this, the rapid succession with which the world is focalised within the novel becomes less expedient and one must be ruthlessly selective with the choice of imagery. Indeed, in this case, the necessity of restriction may be perceived, somewhat paradoxically, as a creative force, extracting what may be seen as the ultimate essence of the work. Through recurrent focus upon the tree, themes of transition and immutability run parallel. Like the tree, Orlando experiences growth; be it emotional, intellectual or sexual; yet remains ultimately \'the same person, no difference at all\' (Potter 1992). The novelist\'s own words that \'he loved, beneath all this summer transiency, to feel the earth\'s spine beneath him; for such he took the hard root of the oak tree to be\' and in this instance of adaptation a substantial amount of the viewing pleasure is arguably wrought by the rich sense of history behind the film, incorporated light-heartedly with postmodern elements of pastiche (Woolf 1993: 14-15).

black title screen, white letters "DEATH'.

In identifying the most prominent features of Orlando's translation from word to celluloid, the episodic nature of Potter's film is brought to the fore. A sense of narrative cohesion is constructed through the utilisation of title screens, such as the source pictured, enables the narrative glide effortlessly through different themes whilst progressing across centuries. A stark image, the bold letters which form the word 'death' upon the first title card is particularly striking [Clips, SPA1000027_2]. Whilst in the narrative this refers to Queen Elizabeth's demise, it may additionally interpreted as emblematic of the director's desire emancipate her film from Woolf's prior text, establishing the work's independence. Yet perhaps it is significant that there still remains a sense of reliance on the written word. There is a sense in which this almost harks back to the aesthetic of silent cinema, more contemporaneous to Woolf herself; a notion demonstrative of the plethora of potential intertextual references when considering adaptation.

1 x A4 black photograph album; 34 vellum pages; 24 x colour prints, Mixed, Presentation book containing Sally Potter's notes on the film and colour photographs of Tilda Swinton at Hatfield House

Nevertheless, Potter also makes use of distinctively visual means to convey the passing of time. Sally Potter's pitch presentation book describes Woolf's novel as expressing 'moments of history in extreme imagistic form' [Pitch Documentation, p.12, SPA0000179]. The use of light and colour is explicitly identified here as a technique through which the changing spirit of the age is reflected. For instance, the Elizabethan age is bathed in opulent crimson and golds, whilst the palette of the Romantic era mirrors its brooding temperament, and finally the array of artificial light within 1990s London reflects the modern age. When one considers the shared thematic content of both book and film, centred around transcending temporal constraints, this decision to extend Orlando's story to the epoch of the film's production seems only natural.

Overhead shot of woman lying dead in frozen ice of River Thames, her lap full of red apples.

In the conveyance of the concept of timelessness the carnival upon the frozen River Thames is a striking scene [Clips, SPA1000071_1]. The body of a peasant girl trapped under a veneer of ice is visible; the apples which have escaped from her basket captured in motion as snow beats down upon her. This sense of a transient, ephemeral moment; crystallised and seemingly made eternal, resonates particularly strongly with Orlando's narrative content. In such a simple image, the notion of evading temporal decay is conjured up in a similarly bitter-sweet manner as Orlando's seemingly eternal youth necessitates endless losses; of Sasha, Shermaldine and eventually her ancestral home. Again, a quote from the original novel is brought to mind, with life external to the protagonist remaining 'briefer than the fall of a rose leaf to the ground' (Woolf 1993: 69).

Video file, Digital, Unedited video rushes of location scouting at Hatfield house -- Sally Potter with Alexei Rodionov operating camera

The location scouting footage of Potter in the garden labyrinth at Hartfield House is similarly revealing [Rushes, SPA0000491]. Not only does this allow the film to transition from the 18th century to the Industrial Revolution with elegant simplicity, the labyrinth carries considerable metaphorical weight in terms of the conveying Orlando's mental state. Architecturally, a labyrinth is generally defined as a single winding path and in this vein, conflicting notions of a chaotic mind and certainty of progression are simultaneously evoked.

Video file, Digital, Selected Scene Commentary by Sally Potter

In terms of this location, the factor of chance within the film-making process is highly significant, as the director's commentary divulges that the labyrinth was not in the original script, demonstrative of how sources other than Woolf's text inspired the film Similarly, Potter's revelation here that Swinton was her sole choice for Orlando, raises the concept of her star intertextuality, particularly in terms of the actress' prior experience playing male roles and the suspension of disbelief required to accept her gender within the first part of the film. The commentary is also revealing when considering the communication of emotion in Orlando. One cannot help be drawn by Swinton's breaking of the fourth wall in what Potter terms 'a sort of complicity with the camera' in place of one's privileged position in relation to the character's psyche within the novel [Director's commentary, SPA0000415].

Extreme close up of Orlando looking at camera.

As previously explored, in lieu of long interior monologues to convey the protagonist's emotion, Potter places recurring emphasis on Swinton's facial expressions, yet but this is by no means a feeble compensation. Indeed, even within the original source material one may uncover suggestions that perhaps for certain sentiments there are no corresponding written signifiers, with Woolf's narration declaring that 'our modern spirit can dispense with all language...the most poetic is precisely that which cannot be written down' (Woolf 1993: 175-176). Whilst one must take care not to descend into abstract romanticism, the ending of the film particularly resonates with this, as Swinton's eyes, brimming with both ecstasy and sadness, bear into the spectator [Clips, SPA1000570_3].