Pathway: The Evolving Manuscript: From The Oak Tree to Death of A Lover by Caitlin Falco
After looking through multiple drafts of the script, I noticed that the title of Orlando\'s manuscript changes twice. It begins as \"The Oak Tree,\" but evolves into \"The Death of Hercules,\" and finally becomes \"Death of a Lover.\" What is the significance of each of these titles in relation to the film? Had Sally Potter kept one of the original titles, would we have drawn the same conclusions about the manuscript, and its relationship to other themes in the film?
Page 151 of rough draft of scene 149. Hand written in black ink with pen annotations.
Notice that the manuscript's title in the original hand-written draft of the scipt is "The Oak Tree." Deemed a key location for the film, the oak tree acts as bookends for the film. Orlando begins and ends his/her journey at this tree; in fact, the opening and closing scenes mimic each other in time of day, Orlando's positioning, and voice-over. Therefore, the title, "The Oak Tree," seems a suitable name for his manuscript.
Orlando sitting at the foot of the tree trunk reading poetry
The young oak tree with its sparse bare branches mimics Orlando’s own youth and naivety in the beginning of the film.
Orlando's daughter running through field with video camera. Orlando sitting against oak tree in background
The tree’s lush and plentiful foliage in the last scene demonstrates gained years and age evident in Orlando herself--a natural ending point for her journey.
Page 62 of rough draft of scene 70, scene 71. Black text on white A4 with pen annotations.
However, in revised drafts of the script, Orlando's manuscript becomes "The Death of Hercules." Among numerous literary references to Shakespeare and Spenser, Potter could have easily inserted this reference to Greek mythology. Partially immortal, Hercules also acts as a metaphor for Orlando. Both share immortality living beyond the average man. Yet, Hercules’ death implies an end to this immortality; Hercules, too, undergoes the universal shared experience of death. And, perhaps, Orlando will too.
8x10" black and white photograph of Jimmy Somerville with flaming torch
In fact, the Falsetto that sings at the beginning of the film as Queen Elizabeth sails on the river emulates the Greek chorus, found in many Greek epics/tragedies/comedies, in that he will sing the moral at the end of the film
Shot from Orlando's daughter's point of view through video camera, shot of Herald appearing from behind tree foliage
This same Falsetto now dressed in gold and with wings, reminiscent of an angel, ends the film by singing the moral of this epic four hundred year journey--to be free of the past and to look toward the future.
Black and white A4 Text Document, Digital, Finished screenplay as published by Faber and Faber
In the final published screenplay, the manuscript's title is "Death of a Lover." Perhaps, referring to Orlando's failed attempts at love or commenting on the curse of immortality--to outlive all you love, this last title presents a different set of ideas to the audience.
medium shot of Sasha scolding Orlando
Orlando, perpetually dissatisfied with any potential partners, ends his first affair with Sasha due to jealousy and mistrust.
Medium shot of Archduke Harry still bent on one knee, reproaching Orlando for refusing him
Rejecting Archduke Harry, Orlando faces the possibility of dying a "spinster." Arguable, this encounter pushes Orlando to define love as the meaning of her existence as demonstrated by her proposal to Shelmerdine during their very first meeting.
Medium shot of Orlando and Shelmerdine embracing and talking in front of Great House
Orlando's final attempt at love ends when she lets Shelmerdine depart. Sharing the deepest connection with this man, Orlando's title "Death of a Lover" could very well be in remembrance of him--the man who told her to break from the past and live for the future.
A4 pages, text document with handwritten notes, Paper, Notes on Khiva and Islam, text
Or, maybe, "Death of a Lover" hints at Orlando's discovery that love isn't her destiny or a solution to her melancholy as suggested by the last sentences on this asset. This manuscript could be the means by which she realizes that she controls her own destiny.