You may recall that last summer, we celebrated some glorious news: the imminent production of a film chronicling the romance between writers Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. Well, my darlings, I return tonight to report the titular stars of Vita and Virginia. Our Woolf will be portrayed by Eva Green, our Sackville-West by Gemma Arterton.
As Variety reports, Chanya Button (Burn, Burn, Burn) co-wrote the screenplay with Eileen Atkins, the latter of whom penned the stage play upon which the film is based. Button will also direct.
Woolf’s affair with Sackville-West inspired her 1928 novel Orlando, a faux-biography meditating on the genre and on gender performance — not to mention an extended love letter to her inamorata. The film, Button says, will trace the romance and, accordingly, the composition of fiction inspired by real love.
“Focusing on the time in 1927-8 during which Woolf wrote Orlando, the novel their relationship inspired, Vita and Virginia will be a visceral love story, a vivid exploration of creativity, and an energized perspective on one of our most iconic writers,” Button explains.
The film will also convey the social strictures corseting women in the early 20th century while demonstrating how both Woolf and Sackville-West resisted them.
“We often associate women of the past with oppression,” Button begins, “bound by the duties of marriage, propriety, and domesticity; but what Vita and Virginia offers is an example of a relationship where bold, brilliant women bent these institutions to their will at great personal cost.”
To be fair: Woolf and Sackville-West possessed whiteness and wealth (Sackville-West was especially well-to-do). Both of these privileges, historically, could enable freedoms inaccessible to other marginalized or less affluent women.
So then, what do we think of our leading women? Green (Penny Dreadful, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children) and Arterton (Watership Down) are so far the only cast members to be announced. I was at first perplexed by the choice of Green for Virginia, but as I dwell on it, her elegance and emotional nuance seem appropriate for the role. I confess I am so far unfamiliar with Arterton’s work. She doesn’t resemble Vita, but neither does Green resemble Virginia (though, I can detect a faint resemblance in some of the writer’s youthful portraits). And who should portray Leonard Woolf? Will we even see much of him? So many questions!
We’ll have to wait for a more thorough casting announcement and a projected release date. In the meantime, you can prepare yourselves by watching this 1993 adaptation of Orlando, starring Tilda Swinton, and of course by reading the book. Fear not, I will keep you abreast of all Woolfian developments!