Ulrike Ottinger b. 1942
Freak Orlando (1981)
Directed by Ulrike Ottinger.
With Delphine Seyrig, Magdalena Montezuma, Albert Heins
West Germany 1981, 35mm, color, 126 min.

Ottinger’s talent for staging extravagant tableaux and celebrating the subversively grotesque animates her celebrated fusion of Virginia Woolf’s transgender novel Orlando and Freaks, Tod Browning’s classic 1932 horror film. Following its hero(ine)’s magical voyage across distinct historical eras, Freak Orlando’s episodic structure describes a world populated by outcasts inhabiting a thinly disguising Berlin. Described by Ottinger as “a history of the world from its beginnings to our day, including the errors, the incompetence, the thirst for power, the fear, the madness, the cruelty and the commonplace,” Freak Orlando explores the various ways in which socio-cultural and sexual “norms” have been demarcated, policed and transgressed.