Pathway: The Literary Process of Adaptation by Emma Lieberman

In a novel-to-film adaptation, one of the most interesting things to do is look at the source novel and see how it differs from the screenplay. Film is a visual medium, making it very different from the literary medium of the novel, but the adapted screenplay is like the bridge between the two, and can show the most striking resemblances and differences between the two versions of the story.

Close up of Orlando's face whilst resting against the trunk of the tree

Clip of the first minute of the film, part 2

Orlando doesn't even speak until almost an entire minute into the film when he breaks the fourth wall, interrupts the narrator, and acknowledges the audience.

This final opening to the film is, in fact, very similar to the novel - the oak tree, Orlando's love of poetry, accidentally making himself late for greeting the Queen - the only difference is that the third person becomes a voice-over narrator that Orlando interacts with (if only briefly) instead of a self-proclaimed "biographer" as exists in the novel.

Orlando sitting at the foot of the tree trunk reading poetry

Clip of the first minute of the film, part 1

Even compared to the shooting script, this is a whole new way to open the film. It begins with a voice-over from some completely separate narrator while Orlando is very simply resting by a tree, reading and attempting to figure out poetry

Black and white A4 computer printed with handwritten annotations, bound into book, Paper,Orlando Sally Potter’s Shooting Script page 1 front

Shooting script of Orlando

This is theoretically the final version of the script, and it's still different from the finished product of the film. It has Orlando breaking the fourth wall and interacting with the audience in a way that gets cut down to just one line in the final film, but it also begins with him sitting at the oak tree and staying only there instead of moving about or showing separate scenes of him doing various things.

Black and white A4 computer printed, Paper, Revised draft of screenplay

Typed, revised draft of the Orlando screenplay, part 2

Continuation of the opening scene from part 1

Black and white A4 computer printed, Paper, Revised draft of screenplay

Typed revised draft of the Orlando screenplay.

Another difference - this has the viewer beginning in the present day (or at least the present day for when the film was made) with Orlando's voice-over, and then proceeds to go back in time. In this version, the viewer would watch Orlando's story while already knowing part of the ending.

Page one of handwritten rough draft #1. Black ink on white A4 paper

Handwritten first draft of the Orlando script.

This is much closer to the final version of the opening scene than the first handwritten notes are. It now includes the voice-over over Orlando doing things. While what is happening on screen is still more complicated than what we see in the film, but it's a step towards simplification, and away from having an overly complicated opening.

Handwritten notes marked "1" in red ink on white A4 paper

Handwritten notes on how the film Orlando should open.

This isn't marked as the first draft of the Orlando film script, meaning that it's Sally Potter's first ideas about how the film should look and play out before she officially got started. The beginning of any work is incredibly important as it is what hooks the consumer, but this opening is very different from the one the viewer sees in the film, meaning it has gone through many changes and edits from Potter's first ideas to its final form.

A4 pages, handwritten, Paper, Pre-draft handwritten notes on key scenes

Sally Potter is deciding what the most important scenes in Orlando are for the adaptation to film. In any novel-to-film adaptation, scenes from the book have to be cut in the interests of time, but these are the scenes/plot points that Sally Potter decided are the most important and absolutely have to be in the film.