Orlando is one of my favorite movies. It was the first movie I ever saw where I understood the power of the medium. It made me love movies in a way I never thought possible. I saw it when i was 18. And ever since then I have been hooked on film. As an adult, film is the only love affair that I have started that has lasted over five years.
And I finally saw it on the big screen again a few days ago.
Clearly, it was amazing.
Better than I remembered really. As I saw it half a lifetime ago, this only makes sense. I got quite a bit more out of it on this viewing. Or perhaps the first time I was blinded by just viewing Tilda Swinton… And while I have watched it at least twice on video in the ensuing years, it left me a bit cold this way. This is a film that requires a big screen viewing.
One of the lines that sticks out to me, from a scene I totally forgot, was when Orlando is being feted as an outstanding ambassador to an unnamed Middle Eastern country. During the party to celebrate his accomplishments, the city is attacked by “mutual enemies”. The Earl of Moray saves Orlando’s life by shooting a would be assassin. But rather than running off into battle Orlando stops to care for the fallen enemy. The Earl tells Orlando to let him be as he “is not a person, but the enemy.” Upon hearing these words Orlando runs off away from the battle and wakes up a her.
And why did I find this moment in the film to be so significant?
It was a simple truth of humanity, that man can dehumanize anyone by claiming they are beneath them, not human, and justify any sort of barbarism that changed Orlando from Male to Female. Or convinced her to change sexes. She rejected this truth of mankind by rejecting “man” kind. She ran away from the comfort that maleness provided for her and fell into the limbo of being a women forced her to lose the privilege and life provided to her from the queen.
And really, while my transformation has not been as dramatic (at least not physically), I can totally see a similarity in my past year and Orlando’s gender switch. Before I underwent the chemo, I was not much more than a harbinger of anger and mass animosity. I really do not even understand why people wanted to be around me I was such a overwhelming downer. I have never been accused of being an optimist (well that is not true, I got accused of it last week for the first time — my jaw dropped), but I had soured inside far more than my normal slightly askewed disposition.
But I have grown and developed exponentially as I took 10 months to regrow myself.
And this journey that lies in front of me will continue the trend. Yesterday while waiting in line and chatting with a friend, she told me: “I am going to miss you so much.” To which I answered, “So am I.” I was not being cute and trying to out ditto Patrick Swayze in Ghost, I actually meant I will miss myself too. Or rather the life I have become accustomed to here. I will miss it dearly.
But it is time to molt, shed some skin, and continue to evolve. Just like Orlando did. Just like we all should.