Orlando, My Political Biography

Orlando, My Political Biography ★★★

The intrigue of the central conceit – interweaving the broad narrative strokes of Virginia Woolf's extremely non-binary 1928 novel Orlando (which, contrary to the film's assertion, was not her breakout work) with the real-life testimony of the film's trans and non-binary protagonists – collapses in on itself about 20 minutes in, in part because Woolf's book is far too playful, referential, and ironic to be flattened into a straightforward allegory like that. So what ends up happening is that the film's insistence to build its political manifesto around Orlando tends to get in the way of its most fascinating aspects – from the intimate discussions of self-discovery and the euphoria of imagining a world beyond the gender binary to the hands-on examples of the institutional absurdities and injustices that grow from a society shaped by normative patriarchy. It's undoubtedly an extremely worthwhile film, not least because of how succinctly, unapologetically, and uncompromisingly it makes its broadly accessible case for trans and non-binary liberation – but if you put Woolf at the centre of your cine-political universe, I expect a little more than the rote didacticism Preciado keeps falling back on.

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