Exploring Intertextuality in Orlando
Sally Potter chooses to continue the story of Orlando into present time, therefore sustaining Wool's ideas of Orlando's timelessness. Interestingly, the child stays with Orlando, accompanying her to the publishing of her novel, a silent accessory to her life. The child becomes, like Knole House, a rare consistency in Orlando's life. Her one other consistency, her literary endeavours, are clearly, as in the Novel, her most important success, her expression, and the meaning for her life as it is.
Here we see the early visual development of the film. Interesting is how this process starts with the creation of Tilda Swinton as visually both Tudor Male and Victorian female. Even at this early stage we see how her androgynous features are heightened by pale monotonic make up and washed-out lighting. She appears neither feminine nor masculine, heightening her fluidity of gender.
Here we can see Sally Potter's passion for the original novel, and her determination to adapt it to film. Her lack of willingness to give up on this particular piece mirrors Orland''s own unwillingness to give up 'The Oak Tree'. We can also see how this passion has resulted in a film that is perfectly balanced between Director vision and fidelity to the original text.
Although it is unclear how relevant these paintings are to Sally Potters artistic vision, as they appear to be the work of Christopher J. Hobbs, it is interesting to see the development of image from Woolfs imagination onto paper, from paper to canvas, and from canvas to film. These paintings are also interesting in relation to Sally Potters desire to travel to, and shoot in, the USSR. We can clearly see how images such as this, and Woolfs creation of description of them, would have sparked this desire.
The casting of Quentin Crisp as Queen Elizabeth the first is interesting in many ways. Firstly, the intertextuality involved in the casting of Elizabeth, a historical figure so frequently represented in art, literature and indeed film, that she herself seems to have become an adaptation of an original, and whose image is so intertextual that it would be impossible to separate one from another. Secondly, it is important to examine this choice of casting in terms of sex and gender. What Sally Potter seems to be saying by the casting of a male as a female character is that sex and gender are separable, one is not shaped completely by the other. The individual has elements of both genders, which can be separated. Gender appears as a mask, a fa?ade that the individual creates as a result of, and to survive in, society. Thirdly, Elizabeth I, at the time, was praised for being 'as strong as a man'. While in present day sex and strength are not intrinsic, it is interesting to see that Elizabeth I, in all her strength is here presented as a man, perhaps reflecting the way in which Orlando responds to his inability to live up to the pressures and expectations of his gender by becoming a woman, the 'weaker sex'.
Here we see Orlando and Shelmerdine in a post-coital embrace. Interesting is the reversal of stereotypical post-coital gender roles. Orlando seems detached, a trait more familiarly seen in male characters, and supports Shelmerdine's weight, who lies in the vulnerable pre-natal position, clearly more emotionally attached and in the moment. These female traits, when portrayed by Billy Zane, an actor whose star persona is more often associated with strong, mysterious male characters, is yet another way in which gender is seen to be a fluctuating state throughout the film.