Directed by Sally Potter (1992; rated PG-13; 94 minutes)
Based on the eponymous novel by Virginia Woolf, the young nobleman Orlando is blessed with eternal youth by Queen Elizabeth I. The film follows him moving through several centuries of British history, experiencing a variety of lives and relationships along the way, and even magically changing his sex.
This film is part of the series Art, Alchemy, and the Paston Treasure.
The Paston Treasure—one of the most enigmatic works of art in the Western canon—was painted circa 1663 by an unidentified artist to record a selection of treasures from the Paston family’s cabinet of curiosities. Consideration of this complicated painting reveals a world of art, science, travel, and collecting during an age that witnessed an increase in global trade and colonial expansion. The films in this series complement and play upon the exhibition’s investigation of the development of the Paston collection across time, as well as the groundbreaking technical study of the painting’s unusual physical attributes, some of which were likely the result of the patron’s alchemical interest in the nature of painters’ pigments. Themes of social ambition, the pursuit of treasure, the obsession with alchemy, and the preoccupation with eternal legacy are all brought to the fore with elements of humor, intrigue, and magic.