There are lots of intellectual traditions vying for ascendancy in Potter's adaptation of Virginia Woolf's 1928 modernist novel, but the joy is that the film comes over simply: a beautiful historical pageant of 400 years of English history, full of visual and aural pleasures, sly jokes, thought-provoking insights, emotional truths - and romance. It begins at the opulent court of Virgin Queen Elizabeth (Crisp), where the male immortal Orlando receives favour and an estate; and thence follows his quest for love in 50-year jumps through the Civil War, the early colonial period, the effete literary salons of 1750 (by which time Orlando is a woman), the Victorian era of property, and finally a 20th century postscript added by Potter. The fine, stylised performances from an idiosyncratic international cast are admirably headed by Swinton's magnificent Orlando, who acts as the film's complicitous eyes and ears; and there's little to fault in Alexei Rodionov's cinematography, which renders the scenes with rare sensitivity. It's a critical work - in the sense that it comments wryly on such things as representations of English history, sexuality/androgyny and class - but made in the spirit of a love poem to both Woolf and the England that made us.
Cast and crew