24 Frames: Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992)

In Potter’s Orlando the maze opens onto a heath and Orlando runs in Cathy Earnshaw fashion through the hugely exaggerated dry ice of Gothic and melodrama costume films. Similarly Woolf continues to parody Orlando’s absurd belief in a union with nature: ‘Then, some strange ecstasy came over her. Some wild notion she had of following the birds to the rim of the world and flinging herself on the spongy turf . . . her ankle was broken’. But, as Sally Potter suggests in interview with Walter Donahue, postmodern literary strategies do not necessarily work in cinema:

Because the book is almost a running commentary on the history of literature as the vehicle for consciousness there had to be a cinematic equivalent to what happened to that kind of consciousness post war. In other words the fracturing of her consciousness and the arrival of the electronic age.

Potter’s most sustained cinematic equivalent to literary parody is her use of motifs and scenes from the films of Michael Powell to whom Orlando is dedicated. As she herself admits ‘my favourite film by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger is A Matter of Life and Death and when interviewing Powell for a television film Potter sketches him with a Powell-like palette of colours ‘shiny apple-red cheeks’. Potter chose Powell’s The Red Shoes for her National Film Theatre programme and she points out that Powell’s hovering ‘between realism and nonrealism’ puts him in ‘a magic zone’ (Dargis, 1993). Just before his death it was Powell’s active support which enabled Potter to complete Orlando and a more direct pastiche of Powell’s Gone to Earth appears in the scene of Orlando running in the garden.
As befits the thick complexity of postmodernism, Orlando mimics singular histories and a singular aesthetic with multiple visual references. Shelmerdine mimics Rochester’s entrance in Jane Eyre, galloping towards her out of the mist’ on a similar large black phallic horse and, like Rochester, ‘is flung to the ground and lies spreadeagled in front of Orlando’. Not insignificantly the postmodern gesture receives the imprimatur of the intimate gaze. ‘Orlando looks questioningly into the camera’ (Potter, 1994). Alice in Wonderland is recalled in Potter’s giant topiary teacups fronting the house. Dr Zhivago has a diagonal relation to Orlando’s snow-sleigh ride with Sasha. The doors of John Ford’s The Searchers frame the scene of Orlando’s sex change recalling and deflating that famously misogynist Ford gesture of framing women characters in smaller versions of the larger doorways open to male characters.

Feminism and film (Maggie Humm)

In order to keep in faith with Virginia Woolf s use of real time in ending the novel […] the film had to end when it was completed – 1992′ (Potter, 1994). Here Potter quite rightly puts Orlando into a contemporary context and allows her, with the birth of a daughter, both to lose the Great House and to gain, in the present day, the knowledge and freedom that whatever else she may own can be legally bequeathed to her daughter in the way it could not have been to her.
These added scenes at the close of Potter’s film again draw their visual style from the films of Michael Powell, and his The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) in particular. In one of these, Orlando is seen ‘running across a dark expanse of devastated wasteland, dressed now in clothes from the 1940s’; the artificiality of this expanse of devastated wasteland recalls the set designs from the Great War sequence of Powell’s film. Equally the old-fashioned motorcycle and side car that Orlando rides with her daughter recalls Colonel Blimp’s breathtaking opening scenes. Furthermore, like that of Clive Candy, the protagonist of Powell’s film, Orlando’s story is one that literally takes time to tell and Potter was clearly inspired by the film’s seamless and brilliantly contrived time jumps.
However, if Colonel Blimp is the story of one man’s journey through fifty years of history, it also

concerns itself very much with an exhaustive definition and exploration of what a home might be: a time, a building, a country, a marriage, a life, an army, a duty, a youth, a faith, a feeling, a state of mind.

The same could equally be said of both Woolf ‘s novel and Potter’s film. In the latter, though, the home becomes something less tangible but more permanent than a building.

Intertextuality and Film: Sally Potter’s Orlando (Brian Hoyle)

Nota 1: Um dos autores cita a cena das motocicletas do Blimp, mas a cena referida do filme de Potter remete às corridas de moto do Livesey em AMOLAD. A verdade é que posso ver a Swinton intepretando até o Clive Candy, aquele close-up na sala do editor parece saído diretamente da cena do duelo do Blimp.

Nota 2: Tilda Swinton é uma atriz que facilmente seria musa de Michael Powell e nem é só pelos cabelos ruivos, dá para ver perfeitamente aqui que ela consegue mesclar características tanto de Pamela Brown – a comunhão romântica com a natureza de IKWIG e a androginia de Tales of Hoffmann, quanto de Deborah Kerr – as encarnações múltiplas de Colonel Blimp e a parte irlandesa do Black Narcissus. Como se não bastasse, Swinton foi a musa absoluta de um dos pupilos mais fiéis de Powell: Derek Jarman.

Publicado por Adriana Scarpin

Bibliófila, ailurófila, cinéfila e anarcafeminista. Really. Podem me encontrar também aqui: https://linktr.ee/adrianascarpin

4 comentários em “24 Frames: Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992)

    1. Ah, obrigada. Vindo de alguém que tem um blog tão bacana quanto o seu, tal comentário me enche de orgulho.

      Tilda é diva para toda vida, como Zé Wilker uma vez disse: a atriz com a face mais cinematográfica de todas.


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