Orlando (1992)

Film and Plot Synopsis

When Queen Elizabeth I commands a young nobleman named Orlando to stay forever young, he miraculously does just that. As the film progresses, he moves through several centuries of British history, and experiences a variety of lives and relationships along the way, and even changes his sex.

‘Orlando’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Orlando (1992)Orlando is a story through various time spans, of someone who lives four-hundred years, first as a man then as a woman.

1600 Death

As a young nobleman Orlando is granted favors, chosen by royalty, Queen Elizabeth 1 to be given ownership to property if she promises not to wither, fade or grow old.

1610 Love

After her majesty’s passing Orlando falls passionately in love with a visiting Russian princess impressing her with bilingual prowess and primitive ice skating skills. Orlando is chastised by her peers for convoluting with Cossack Sasha, but her feelings remain sincere even when Orlando says in a moment of clarity ‘Nothing thicker than a knifes blade separates melancholy with happiness’ only to be distraught when thinking she has seen Sasha landing in the arms of a Russian sailor back on board her vessel.

1650 Poetry

With her Russian lover a distant memory, Orlando has a disastrous brush with her passion of poetry, written off by a writer she admires.

1700 Politics

Taking up a role as ambassador in the deserts of Central Asia, in the midst of war Orlando is held to high esteem by The Khan, asked to take arms against the enemy at the gates, Orlando is unwilling to kill or be killed, even showing compassion against the wounded opposition.

The trauma, stress of this situation somehow transforms Orlando, waking up dreamlike as male.

1750 Society

Returning to the formal salons of 18th century London, excited, Orlando is invited to a literary gathering, as a woman she faces a choice. Less distinguished or esteemed from her hosts rudely calling her out for being less significant in a women and using passive-aggressive tones to degrade her not being a Lord anymore.

Told she is legally dead due to being a female – Orlando is asked to be married on a whim to her English monarch friend and supporter, Archduke Harry. Declining she is threatened to remain a spinster, dispossessed and alone, it fires up Orlando as she runs off into the garden maze.

1850 Sex

Running around the sharp corners of the monument of fauna maze, a change occurs age and clothes seems to materialize to the rousing musical score bolting forwards among the mist outside the maze on the baron moors. Billy Zane as Shelberdene appears out of the shadows, flowing hair flickering in the breeze before falling off when his startled horseback bucks him off onto the ground right in front of Orlando.

It’s love at first sight with her opening words, will you marry me. Due to a sprained ankle he decides not divert his answer with preference to letting Orlando ride the horse with him holding on tight behind. Orlando’s choice of losing her inheritance and also a case forsaking the love of global traveler Shelberdene’s mystique pursuit of liberty she has. We see her running again, this time with child.


No year is mentioned as Orlando emerges in the Twentieth Century, now a mum, we assume an ordinary individual who losing everything has found herself, the beginning of the beginning of the end. An angel appears singing looking down on Orlando and her young daughter, life has begun…maybe.

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Sony Pictures Classics released Orlando to theaters on June 9, 1993. Sally Potter directed the film starring Tilda Swinton, Billy Zane, and Quentin Crisp.

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5 years ago

Interesting top 100 pick for Shane.

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