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Freak Orlando

Ulrike Ottinger
West Germany 1981 / 126’

A frenetic, surreal journey in five acts that takes viewers through a history of mankind filled with cruelty and wild desire. The film was inspired by Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel describing the adventures of the androgynous poet Orlando as he meets key figures in English literature on his journey through five centuries. The Orlando in the film is a fabulous creature (played by Magdalena Montezuma) born on the steps of a medieval cathedral who returns again and again in new incarnations. As a witness, participant, and sometimes victim of horrifying European cataclysms, ranging from the Inquisition, to Nazism and rapacious consumerism. Freak Orlando, which has, at times, been compared to Buñuel's Milky Way, can be seen as an extensive art project: two weeks after its world premiere at the Hof International Film Festival in November 1981, it was shown in Berlin's DAAD gallery as the main exhibit in the Freak Orlando: Artistic conceptmultimedia exhibition.

Adam Kruk


Sceaux International Women's FF 1983 – Audience Award

Ulrike Ottinger

Ulrike Ottinger is a German artist and director. She studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich. She spent the 1960s painting and doing photography in Paris. In 1973, she founded her own production company in Berlin, where she has been living up until the present. She also made her first documentary in 1975, Laocoon & Sons, and she made her first full-length feature film in 1978, with the surreal Madame X: An Absolute Ruler, which featured a performance by underground icon Tabea Blumenschein from the group Die Tödliche Doris. In the 1980s, she was also involved in set design for stage plays, including for productions by Elfriede Jelinek, whose Farewell was presented again in 2000 on the stage of the Berliner Ensemble. Ottinger's original, interdisciplinary work consists of documentaries, feature films, and experimental films that can often be described as artistic forays into the territory that separates these forms. As opposed to conventional means of expression, Ottinger seeks prescriptions that differ from official arrangements and traditions, especially in Eastern cultures. Since making her eight-hour Taiga, she has consistently challenged viewers, including in terms of the length her films. Being at the same time the director, writer, producer, and cinematographer, her films are absolutely her original works in every sense.

Selected filmography

1978 Madame X - absolutna władczyni / Madame X - Eine absolute Herrscherin / Madame X: An Absolute Ruler

1984 Dorian Gray w zwierciadle prasy brukowej / Dorian Gray im Spiegel der Boulevardpresse / Dorian Gray in the Mirror of the Yellow Press

1989 Mongolska Joanna D'Arc / Johanna D'Arc of Mongolia / Joan of Arc of Mongolia

2002 Südostpassage / Southeast Passage

2011 Pod śniegiem / Unter Schnee / Under Snow

2016 Cień Chamissa / Chamissos Schatten / Chamisso's Shadow

Cast & Crew

director Ulrike Ottinger
screenplay Ulrike Ottinger
cinematography Ulrike Ottinger
editing Dörte Völz-Mammarella
music Wilhelm D. Siebert
cast Magdalena Montezuma, Delphine Seyrig, Hans Langerschlanger, Eddie Constantine
producer Renée Gundelach, Sibylle Hubatschek-Rahn
production Ulrike Oettinger Filmproduktion, Pia Frankenberg Filmproduktion, ZDF
sales Arte France
language German
colouration colour