Orlando by Virginia Woolf
The first time I read Orlando by Virginia Woolf, I was very confused. It seemed that the book was about time travel, as if Orlando was like Dr. Who or Sam Beckett from Quantum Leap. Then the lead character changes gender and decades so effortlessly without any explanation or alarm. Upon further investigation, I realized how interesting Orlando and Virginia Woolf really were, especially for the time period. The plot context doesn’t really necessarily matter. Like Roger Ebert writes in Chicago Sun-Times, "it is not about a story or a plot, but about a vision of human existence." Woolf wrote this faux-biography as playful fun and without too much seriousness. I believe she based a great deal of the story on her own life and the lives of her closest friends.
Virginia Woolf, originally Virginia Stephens, was born in London in 1882 to a well to do middle class family. She spent time vacationing with her parents and 5 siblings in the summers at St. Ives. She had a happy childhood, until her mother died when she was 10 years old. The death of her mother sparked a chain reaction of disasters in her life. A few years later her father died and then her older sister. The remaining siblings decided to move away from the city, where they were subject to observation and scrutiny, and they relocated to Brighton. This was considered scandalous because it wasn’t a desired area at the time, but they Stephens’s children took refuge in their new home. They flourished in the arts. After a trip to Greece her older brother came down with Typhoid fever and died. Virginia had seen too much tragedy and it took a toll on her mental stability. Virginia struggled with manic depression and sometime schizophrenia. She would go thr...
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...rry/Harriet served as a comic relief character.
The most unusual difference between the book and the film is the ending. In the book, Orlando marries Shelmerdine, has a son, and gets her estate back. In the final scene, Orlando cries out Shelmerdine as he returns in an airplane. In the film, it is unclear if she marries Shelmerdine, she reluctantly loses the estate, and ends the movie back at the oak tree with her child videotaping her with an androgynous angel floating in the sky and singing "I am coming . . . at last I am free." I thought the angel was very strange. Not only did this scene not make sense, but I felt it was very tacky and did not fit the style of the rest of the film. I seemed like something the director would talk about with their design team and conceptualize, but when it is executed, it end up being a terrible idea. They should of cut it.
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