- Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
- Audio Codec: English LPCM 2.0 Stereo (48kHz/16-bit)
- Subtitles: N/A
- Subtitles Color: N/A
- Region: B (Region-Locked)
- Certification: PG
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: Artificial Eye
- Blu-ray Release Date: August 6, 2012
- RRP: £19.99
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Sally Potter’s sweeping, sexy, and beautifully filmed epic Orlando, based on the novel by Virginia Woolf, is a film dominated by the performance by Tilda Swinton in the title role and its unbelievably beautiful set design on such a tight budget of around only $4 million dollars. Spanning four centuries, the story centers on the androgynous titular character beginning at the end of the reign of Elizabeth I (played magnificently by Quentin Crisp), Elizabeth brings Orlando close to her to be her sexual plaything at the end of her life, bequeathing upon him a large estate, under the condition that he not grow old. Somehow, Orlando manages to keep his word, a feat which is never completely explained. We (and Orlando) are witness to centuries of European history including rejection at the hands of a Russian princess (Charlotte Valandrey), a decade of ambassadorship in Constantinople where he sees death and warfare that sends him into a lengthy coma from which he awakens a woman. Upon becoming a woman and returning home to England, Orlando finds being a woman amongst the intellectual leaders of the Age of Enlightenment puts her in a precarious position, and when her estate is about to be taken away from her on the grounds that she is deemed dead, and because she is a woman, she runs away into her garden maze, emerging on the other end in the Victorian era. She meets an American man she falls in love with, finally has sex and finds herself pregnant in the modern world where she gives birth to her daughter, living on for an undetermined amount of time. Is she finally happy, rather than the melancholy Orlando he or she has been all this time? We are left to our own devices to figure that out. Where there are holes in the story (how does no one notice Orlando doesn’t age?) the magnificent handling of the feminist themes and struggles of finding true love fill in the gaps.
I don’t recall Orlando ever looking particularly sharp and crisp, it has always had a sort of softness about it, an ethereal quality so to speak. I wasn’t surprised to see, then, that this transfer from Artificial Eye is a little on the soft side. What bothers me the most about this AVC/MPEG-4 1080p encodement is not so much the film softness, but the random source damage that pops up from time to time. It’s not enough to make the film unwatchable by any means, but enough to be noticeable. There are a few spots where some lens dirt is apparent as well. With that said, any excessive amounts of DNR would have a tremendous negative effect on what is already a somewhat soft film, so the overall natural, organic look of this Artificial Eye release is satisfying, while not being absolutely perfect.
It may only be a stereo soundtrack, but the LPCM 2.0 (48kHz/16-bit) is surprisingly entertaining, even minus all the extra surround channels and subwoofers we have become used to in home theatre these days. The stereo panning is rather wide and active with lots of lively and realistic atmospheric effects, like birds chirping and so forth. An early scene with dancing on a frozen lake underscored by the appropriate early music shows great low frequency depth. Dialogue is natural and clear.
While there is clearly nothing new on offer here, these production featurettes nevertheless offer up a great deal of information on the film and are a good watch for those who have never seen them before.
- Orlando Goes to Russia (1.33:1; SD/PAL; 00:33:01) – Scouting Russia for the film’s scenes of the frozen river Thames.
- Orlando in Uzbekistan (1.33:1; SD/PAL; 00:51:57) – A video diary of the location filming in Uzbekistan.
- Jimmy was an Angel (1.33:1; SD/PAL; 00:08:04)
- Venice Film Festival
- Press Conference (1.33:1; SD/PAL; 00:23:24)
- Interview with Sally Potter (1.33:1; SD/PAL;00:13:27)
- Selected Scene Commentary (1.33:1; SD/PAL; 00:10:15)
The Definitive Word
From the beautiful costumes, set designs and cinematography to the compact, breezy, sexy story about the struggle to find love and acceptance across the ages, Orlando is a winner. Finally hitting Blu-ray, this Artificial Eye release is the best the film has ever looked, even if there are some flaws here and there.
Additional Screen Captures