Exploring the intertextual nature of Sally Potter\'s Orlando
The first page of Virginia Woolf\'s novel Orlando. The novel itself served as the source material for Sally Potter and her film adaptation. To understand Orlando as a novel you must explore the notion of intertextuality. Intertextuality isn\'t limited just to the film, but to Woolf\'s original novel itself. From this first page we can see that the novel itself feeds into her private life. The novel is dedicated to Woolf\'s lover Vita Sackville-West, who Orlando is based upon. This tells us that Sally Potter isn\'t just adapting the literary piece into film, but also the intertextual nature of Woolf\'s own life.
With this diary entry we can engage with Sally Potter's total devotion to the piece. It is obviously a very personal project for her and one that even though she had trouble getting it off the ground at first, it was not something she gave up on, and it took a '4 year struggle'. Her love for the novel feed into the film, and creates a fidelity to the text itself, but also allows her freedom as a director without running astray.
In this piece we see the motives behind Potter's choice of key scenes within the movie. It also gives us an insight into how she creates new meaning to those held in the novel. The new meanings help to push forward something for contemporary audiences. The idea of the independent woman is key, shown through Orlando's relationship with Shelmerdine, letting go of the past and moving on.
I feel that this video is a great representation of the director emerging themselves within the film. It shows Sally Potter running through the maze, the maze that gives her a setting for Orlando to change gender and time. It proves that location scouting and shooting is a fundamental pert of the creative process, as it creates a backdrop some of the best moments within the film.
Knole House is significant in exploring the intertextuality, even though it is not included within the film itself, it clearly shows the intertextual and biographical nature of Woolf's original novel. Knole House was the home of Woolf's lover Vita Sackville West. Orlando, as mentioned before what enspired by Vita and her Sackville ancestors. Vita was unable to inherit the house due to being a woman, and this is where gender restrictions come into play. The photograph itself is highly significant as it obviously shows the female removed from the house.
Here is the screen test of Quentin Crisp reading the part of Queen Elizabeth I. Crisp was a key homosexual icon of the 1970's, and often referred to as 'the real Queen of England'. This shows Potters approach to gender roles within the film, and also the issues of gender in Woolf's novel. Crisp's star persona also adds to the intertextuality of the film itself. Crisp is comfortable in his role as Elizabeth I, and finds joy in being able to play with traditional roles of gender, fluttering between both. It obviously feeds into the gender change of Orlando. The use of him in the role of the queen brings the audience to expect elements of his life off screen within the character of the Queen.
Tilda Swinton is another example of this fluidity of gender. It is obvious that along with the casting of Quentin Crisp, both stars have been utilized to turn ideas of gender on their heads, to make one question the roles of male and female within the film. Instead of using obvious male symbols, such as facial hair, to portray Swinton as a male character, we are instead informed by her previous roles, and her acting ability. She had to rely on the audience picking up her male role through her body language and behaviour of her character.
This gender fluidity is also shown in the early visual development of the film. This image shows Tilda Swinton as the Tudor Male and the Victorian Female. Having both of the images next to each other show how well she suits this role. Her androgynous features are made apparent by the pale make up she wears, it does not highlight either male or female qualities, which adds to the acceptance of her gender fluidity.
This still from the film is interesting to look at once again from the angle of gender fluidity. The image is taken after the two have intercourse. The man within this shot appears to be the submissive as he holds onto the woman, literally clinging onto her. Orlando is the one who dominates the frame, she is the dominant figure, which would not usually be the case in conventional narratives. The gender fluidity in the novel is shown through the conduct of Orlando.