"I am coming across the divide to you," sings and angel, toward the end of Sally Potter's film of Orlando. The angel is poised above Orlando and her daughter, resplendent and androgynous, pealing out the ecstasy of being "neither a woman nor a man," its exuberance inviting the audience to celebrate the eradication of chronology, distance and gendered characteristics. The mins opens out not only to consider Orlando's previous incarnations within the film, but also the previous incarnation of the film itself, in the form of Virginia Woolf's novel. But the angel continues to croon: "I am born and I am dying." For the purposes of this essay I will be exploring the question of whether or not the formalities of literature have to be expunged so that adaptations can translate convincingly to cinema or can we see a much more fruitful relationship between these two texts, and one in which can grant Woolf a degree of prescience with which she is rarely credited. Many critics have observed that in Orlando Woolf absorbs cinematic devices, adapting zooms, change-in-focus, close-ups, flashbacks, dissolves and tracking shots. Although coinciding with contemporary modernist writing, Woolf's Orlando has been described as almost specifically written as a screenplay. .
However parodically, Woolf's Orlando tightens the correlation between gendered subjectivities and social order. The opening sentences interlace the governmental strands of patriarchy, property and empire: "He- for there could be no doubt of his sex, though the fashion of the time did something to disguise it- was in the act of slicing at the head of a Moor which swung from the rafters Orlando's father, or perhaps his grandfather, had struck it from the shoulders of a vast pagan who had started up under the moon in the barbarian fields of Africa; and now it swung, gently, perpetually, in the attic rooms of the gigantic house of the lord who had slain him".