Thoughts on how Sally Potter used the visual medium of film to translate Virginia Wolf's literary exploration of gender, which is given to us largely through Orlando's internalised thought, into the screen.
This begins to address the fact that much of Orlando the novel is concerned with his/her inner thoughts and reflections on what is going on, rather than any visual actions which could be put across clearly on screen. Adding the voice over essentially departs from the filmic medium, but allows Potter to capture some of the self-reflexivity of the novel and the thoughts on the process of writing itself, although it does not have the same affect because we are watching rather than reading, so we are less aware of ourselves as audience than we are when reading the book.
Crisp's iconic status affects how we view the film in terms of gender not only because he is a man in a woman's role, but because of the intertextual nature of his star persona. He is synonymous with breaking gender boundaries and his very presence in the film, regardless of his performance, brings our attention to the fluidity of gender in the story.
Quentin Crisp - 1970s gay icon - cast as Queen Elizabeth.
Continuation of Potter's pay with gender roles within the casting, which stems from Wolf's original exploration of gender in the book. The casting process, specific to the filmic medium, demands that a very clear and defined image of the character is put into the mind of the audience, and so casting a man for the female role is a device which was unavailable to Wolf while she wrote the book, and so in a strict sense is a departure from the original text, but the gender-bending spirit of the novel is very much shown and developed in the decision.
Similarly to Crisp's casting, the very fact that we know Swinton is a woman when the film begins makes gender THE focal point of the movie from the start, as even if we have no prior knowledge of the book, it is unlikely the audience would be unaware of Swinton - at least to the point of knowing her gender.