Orlando, My Political Biography by Paul B Preciado (dir) - review by Zoe Guttenplan

Zoe Guttenplan

A Body of One’s Own

Orlando, My Political Biography


98 mins

There are over 3,700 missives collected in the six-volume edition of The Letters of Virginia Woolf. Some are fairly dull (like an exchange with Vanessa Bell about milk) but some are deliciously bitchy (E M Forster is ‘limp and damp and milder than the breath of a cow’), while others – those addressed to Vita Sackville-West – are tender and lustful at the same time. ‘I like your energy. I love your legs. I long to see you,’ Woolf wrote in 1927. Woolf’s letter to Sackville-West a month and a half later is full of ideas for her next novel, Orlando: A Biography. ‘But listen; suppose Orlando turns out to be Vita; and its [sic] all about you and the lusts of your flesh and the lure of your mind … suppose there’s the kind of shimmer of reality which sometimes attaches to my people … Shall you mind?’

Orlando follows the eponymous protagonist’s adventures at home and abroad. At the beginning of the novel, he is a teenage boy in Elizabethan England; at its end, in 1928 (the year the book was published), Orlando is a woman in her thirties. Sackville-West’s son would later call it ‘the longest and most charming love letter in literature’. The voice-over to the philosopher and activist Paul B Preciado’s joyful and witty film Orlando, My Political Biography consists of a letter he himself has written to Woolf. 

The novel, Woolf’s first commercial success, has previously been adapted for film, opera, ballet and theatre – you would be forgiven for thinking it has been adapted to death. Although this film is only loosely inspired by Woolf’s novel, taking the basic plot points as its bare structure, it

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