having missed it last year living in preston, i’m delighted that i can once again experience the jameson dublin international film festival. working the hours that i do i won’t get to see everything i want to (life during wartime, les yeux sans visage), but i’ve managed to fit in a few. today i got to see sally potter’s 1992 adaptation of virginia woolf’s orlando. it might seem a bizarre choice of film – not old enough to be completely retro, not new by any standards – but as the festival is committed “to celebrating film as an art form” it fits right in.
i gave up on the novel on my first attempt – i was in my first term at university and most definitely burning the candle at both ends (not that i’ve ever stopped doing that). when exam time came around i tried again, and all of a sudden i was mesmerised. as well as its beautifully bizarre plot, the book is laced with so many fascinating ideas that even if you aren’t completely taken in by the narrative (which involves a young elizabethan man who lives forever and suddenly becomes a woman) you can’t help but be entranced by the words.
so i wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the film. with any adaptation you are bound to notice differences, omissions and additions. this was no exception. yet it was shot so beautifully, and was so perfectly self-containing that any major omissions were completely forgivable. tilda swinton’s performance was perfect, capturing the protagonist’s androgyny perfectly – utterly convincing both as a young man and woman. the only major drawback was billy zane’s lifeless contribution, well, that and the appearance of jimmy somerville. the final song’s 90s beats seem quite dated now, ironically even more so than the elizabethan chamber music that accompanies the eerily twisted scenes featuring quentin crisp as the virgin queen. for the most part, however, the score – composed and performed by potter herself together with david motion – was ethereal and entrancing – the perfect accompaniment to the hazy quality of the picture.
the next films i plan on seeing are a mexican film about the victims of an underground porn ring kidnapping, a czech “unromantic comedy” and a 30s take on the vampire legend from a master of cinema. i can only hope that they live up to this excellent start.