Vita & Virginia (2018) Movie Script

And now, in our third series
of discussions
entitled Modern Marriage
Mr. Harold Nicolson
and his wife
the distinguished novelist
Vita Sackville-West
share with us their thoughts
on the foundation
of a modern marriage.
I didn't sign
a marriage contract.
I negotiated one.
And I found a great deal
more flexibility
than I was brought up
to expect.
- Would you agree?
- I would.
Marriage is less
a piece of furniture
and more like a plant.
A living organism
in need of constant nurture.
It is not something we own
but something we grow.
And in so doing,
we are offered the opportunity
to nurture it in our own image.
Yes, but it does seem
that men tend
to regard themselves the plant
and women, the soil.
This is a poor state of affairs
for both sexes.
I enjoy the qualities in myself
that may be said
to be masculine.
And so do I, darling.
Nevertheless, I would argue
the most virile woman
is infinitely more feminine
than the most feminine man.
That kind of thinking
implies damaging absolutes.
That there is something necessarily
passive about the feminine
and therefore that it should
always be the woman
who surrenders
her opportunities.
But you do agree
that the joys of motherhood
are sufficient compensation
for any such sacrifice?
Emphatically not.
Are you saying that your
success as a bestselling writer
thrills you more than
your duties as a mother?
My professional success
satisfies a different stomach.
Independence has no sex.
Do you think
we scandalized the nation?
With any luck, we did.
Are you coming to Bloomsbury?
I'm not sure I could bear
an evening of sullen handshakes
and breathless philosophy.
I think you'd find
you've got them quite wrong.
Good luck with your mother.
Aren't you sweet?
I want some cake, mama.
Boys, what do you say
to bonne maman?
Oh, it's alright. Tuck in.
I've been invited to a party
in Bloomsbury tonight.
All the most exciting artists
will be there
and all the writers
from the Hogarth Press.
Oh, isn't it run
by those Woolfs?
Yes. That's why
I'm so flattered.
But they're socialists.
They are bohemians.
This is a chance for me
to be accepted by serious minds.
I hear she's mad.
I wouldn't want people to believe
everything they hear about me.
Well, of course, in your case,
everything they hear is true.
is a wickedly brilliant mind
and I must know her.
I hope you're not thinking
of running off with her as well?
- No, maman. Of course not.
- If you do that again...
You've scolded me enough.
I've said again and again
how much I regret what happened
and that I only pretended to be
a man when I went to France
with Violet
to get copy for my book.
I'm sorry
if the gossip gave you pain.
I thought I could try
to forget your behavior
but you decided now
to tell the whole world.
- S... so you've read it then?
- It's not a novel.
It's a thinly disguised account
of your ludicrous affair.
- It's already been printed.
- But not published.
You will stop the publishing
or I will stop all money
to you and Harold.
And I shall take steps
to protect the boys
from your influence.
I'll ask my publisher not
to go ahead with the binding.
What I want very much
is to have a daughter
that I can be proud of
and not
a promiscuous exhibitionist
who brings only shame on me
after all I have done
to be accepted by society.
You really must promise
not to go.
There you are, Vita.
Um, I'm not sure
Nessa would be thrilled
to find you
poking around in here.
I couldn't resist.
Ah, that's my wife's
new portrait of her sister.
Oh, it's Virginia?
Well, come back to the party
and I'll introduce you
to the real thing if you like.
She's not so tranquil
off the canvas
I can promise you.
Duncan, I found Vita
in Nessa's studio.
- What shall we do with her?
- Forty lashes immediately.
Much more taken
with Nessa's work
than Duncan's,
weren't you, Vita?
I didn't know you worked
with Mrs. Bell, Mr. Grant.
Constantly. About half
the work in there is mine.
They have the same way of seeing
the world, you see, Vita.
Theirs is what Virginia calls
a left-handed marriage.
And what would that make
your marriage to Nessa then?
A crowded one.
Nessa and I try to catch
the truth of a thing
by... by stripping it back...
- Vanessa?
- ...capturing its essence.
Radical simplification.
Mm, no, no, no,
you're boring poor Vita, Duncan.
I heard you on the radio
this morning.
I just read your latest novel.
Why do you think your books sell
more than mine?
Popularity was never
a sign of genius.
Are you going to smoke that?
Bodies, bodies, bodies.
- How does it feel?
- What are you getting at?
The present moment.
What is it composed of?
It is composed
of bodily sensations.
The air wafts cold on the skin
under one's clothes.
The touch of a hand
gives the sense
that one is sinking through
the center of the earth.
The moment becomes harder..
...stained by the desire
to be loved.. be held close
by another shape.
Can you feel it
running molten up your spine
and down your limbs?
Can you see
what's inside this moment?
Can you feel it?
Yes, it is hardened.
Stained by the desire
to be loved.
The body takes us there
and brings us back.
It's entirely necessary
and a constant distraction.
If we don't live quietly
inside the moment..
...what would be one's gain
in dying?
Stay this moment.
No one ever says that enough.
Good morning, neighbor.
Morning, neighbor.
And a very good morning... it is,
How was Clive's?
A revelation.
Well, did you meet her?
I adore her.
And so will you.
She was utterly silent
until she wanted to say
and then she said it
supremely well.
I still don't know why you wanna
go slumming about in Bloomsbury.
Don't be such a dreadful snob,
The lot of them feel
so downtrodden and earnest.
I thought I might invite her
to join my little writers' club
unless you disagree?
- Strongly, darling.
- Marvelous.
That will make it all the more
enjoyable to invite her.
No, I hear nothing
but reports of her madness.
What a convenient way
to explain away her genius.
I'm not set against her,
I just think she sounds like
rather hard work.
That young man
is a congenital idiot.
What little brain he had
has been commandeered
by Dora Carrington.
He forgot to grease the rollers
on the press.
He can't remember where he put
the woodcuts
for your new easels.
I just hope they sell better
than the last round.
Are you sure that headache
is from blocked sinuses?
- Quite sure.
- You were up too late last night at Vanessa's.
- You should get back to bed.
- Stop fussing, Leonard.
There are
your wretched woodcuts.
- I suppose he's told you?
- About the rollers?
No. Damn the rollers!
How can I think about rollers
when I've been... betrayed?
- Dora's betrayed me.
- In what way?
Well, she lied to me.
She said
she wasn't seeing Lytton
and she was seeing Lytton.
She was honest.
She told you
she wanted to see Lytton.
And I told her
she wasn't to see Lytton.
I see. You told her.
I... I love her. She's mine.
- Do you think that is love?
- Absolutely.
And I'm in... in agony!
Next time we advertise
for staff
we'll stipulate
only eunuchs need apply.
I often think romance is just
not altogether knowing
the other person.
It's the not knowing
that drives one mad.
Dear Mrs. Woolf
I admit
that when Clive invited me
to your sister's party,
I came with every intention
of meeting you.
And what a curious creature
I found.
You operate with such strength
and clarity.
It is as if you were moving
above us somehow.
How do you walk along that
raised ridge without falling?
Now, if you'd allow me to ask
Pen Committee are very anxious
for you to join our club.
Will you be nice and let them
make you a member?
For my sake,
if for no other reason.
Bunch of landed aristocracy
congratulating each other
on their mediocre scribblings.
You can't tell me it would be
anything but pure torture for you.
I might like to discuss
their mediocre scribblings.
Vita seemed to sell
more than mine in any case.
Her last book outsold
D.H. Lawrence by a mile.
I can't believe
you care about that.
I don't. I just resent
your forbidding it.
I'm not forbidding anything.
But it would drain
and enrage you
to have your brilliant mind
ogled by those leering toffs.
Didn't she dress up as a man
and run off
with Violet Trefusis?
That must have been difficult
for Nicolson
to live down
at the Foreign Office.
You know I hate
this sort of gossip, Ginia.
You know I don't take these
aristocratic aberrations
seriously, Leonard.
Then we are in agreement.
"I see from the club papers
that it is a dining club
"and my experience is that
I can't belong to dining clubs.
I'm so sorry."
Are you frustrated
because you wanted Mrs. Woolf
to become a member
of your writers' club
or are you just not used
to being refused?
What did Violet have to say?
She's going abroad.
She wants me to come with her.
You're coming to Lausanne
on the 20th though, aren't you
to play diplomat's wife
for five minutes?
I shall be angry
if you don't come.
Yes, of course.
She's absolutely
If you see her at all,
I know your will becomes like
a jellyfish addicted to cocaine.
You know how grateful I am
that you came to rescue me.
I'd have killed Violet
if I'd stayed
with her an instant longer.
It would have ruined us both,
but you would have been
utterly cast out of society.
You'd have lost the boys.
I could have done nothing...
nothing to help you.
I'll have nothing more
to do with her. Word of honor.
I really am exhausted
with this sapphic pageant.
I don't think
I could bear to be drawn
into that vortex
of unhappiness again.
- It nearly overwhelmed me.
- Hadji, I do love you.
And I love you.
But you do like to have
your cake and eat it, Vitti.
And so many cakes.
So many.
Nothing would tempt me
to see her again.
But if you do go off to France
with Violet again
I shan't get into an aeroplane,
bring you back as I did before.
I shall shock the nation
and elope to Kathmandu
with Lord Curzon.
I rely on your discretion,
My own life depends on it.
You won't join
my little writers' club
so I shall have to enclose
my latest manuscript here.
I would so love to know
what you think.
If you like it,
my next is yours.
A gift, if the Hogarth Press
would like it.
Oh, dear.
We'll have to read it now.
You admitted she does sell.
You're not suggesting
we ask her to write for us?
We could do with a bestseller.
Don't forget we've got Tom Eliot
and Sigmund Freud to sell too.
B... but maybe we should think
about it.
But not her poetry, I beg you.
I won't print a word of that.
I haven't lost the appetite
to know you better.
So you must be very kind
because I'm going
to be very brave and ask
would you ever come
traveling with me?
Does the proposal
seem attractive to you?
I'm very flattered.
I presume Mrs. Woolf knows
you've asked me?
Of course, we always make
joint decisions
about the writers we publish.
I would ask her to join us
but when there's a cross
on that door
she's writing
and everyone is forbidden
to disturb her.
Even her husband?
Even her husband.
So she writes down here
amidst all this?
Oh, Julian.
A short, maybe a travel book,
will suit us very well.
But we leave it to you.
- Aunt Ginia, I bought us...
- Julian!
Mrs. Nicolson is here,
- Is she?
- How are you feeling?
My head's a little better now
I've let some words out.
Julian darling,
they look wonderful.
Have you got something
for me to read?
Well, if it's terribly written
at least
the paper will be delicious.
Mr. Woolf said
you weren't to be disturbed.
I was battling to read
Mr. Joyce.
Are you going to write for us?
No one has ever yet
thrown down a glove
I was not ready to pick up.
I'm meeting Harold in Italy.
On the peaks of mountains
and beside green lakes
I shall write my story.
I'll shut my ears
to the brawling rivers.
I'll shut my nose
to the scent of the pines.
I'll concentrate
on my story... for you.
I must be going.
Would you ever play a truant
to Bloomsbury
and come traveling with me?
You could look on it as copy.
I believe you look
on everything
on everyone, as copy.
Goodbye, Mrs. Woolf.
I feel as though I should like
to write you a long letter.
An endless letter.
Pages and pages.
Ever since I left England,
I've been like a person
in an advanced stage
of intoxication.
Cocktails made not of gin
and vermouth
but of thrill and misery
adventure and homesickness.
Tell me
who you've been seeing..
...even if I've never heard
of them.
I can get the sensation
of seeing you now and then..
...but then I find you
going off.
How little we know anyone.
Only movements.
Nothing connected..
Don't you find all this intimate
philosophizing a bit vulgar?
I don't know why you care
what she thinks.
They're lucky to get you.
Your books sell, hers don't.
I want her to admire me.
Oh, dear.
I hope you're not about
to become a Gloomsbury.
I can't believe you!
This is unacceptable.
- Please try to calm down.
- Try to calm down?
How do you expect me to calm
down when you're on his bed?
I can't. I can't bear it, Vita,
and I won't!
Try to calm down?
I don't think there's any use
in either of us
playing wounded party,
Well, you can't treat love
the way you treated mine.
Truly, you can't.
Nothing that's happened here
hasn't been perfectly lovely.
- We're both adults.
- Morning, Geoffrey.
Well, there you have it.
I don't know how I'm going
to summon the courage
to see the Woolfs
without having heard
a single word about my book.
Do you think
they hated it very much?
Perhaps they both want
to tell you
how marvelous it was in person.
You know what I think?
It's self-conscious
and artificial.
You've tried to write
like Mrs. Woolf, but you can't.
And why you should want to,
I can't imagine.
Dottie and Geoffrey.
Trespassing on two marriages
at once.
It isn't serious.
Virginia and I will have
to console each other.
I'd like to dedicate it to you,
if you don't mind.
When we last met,
you said you thought
I looked on everything,
everyone as copy.
Did I?
You couldn't have accused
poor Virginia
of being that mercenary,
could you, Vita?
She did.
It gave me a great deal of pain.
Do you ever mean what you say
or say what you mean?
Or do you just enjoy
baffling the people
who try to creep
a little nearer?
You know very well
that I like you.
A fabulous lot.
Do I?
Damn it.
You must remember
that Virginia is vulnerable
under all of that brilliance.
I can't bear the thought
of having caused you
any pain at all.
Why have you such an art
of keeping so much of yourself
up your sleeve?
I suspect even after 20 years
there'd still be something
to be unfolded.
Some last layer not uncoiled.
These snatched moments with you
are exasperating.
Meet me so we may have another.
I tried to find you at home,
but Leonard said you were here.
I don't think I could ever care
for one single solitary thing
with as much focus
as Leonard cares for you.
I like things wild and vast
and complicated.
- So I hear.
- I have something for you.
A peace offering,
and don't try to resist
because I've gone
to a lot of trouble.
They're from Cairo.
The blue-tinted spectacles
that inspired me
to write "Seducers" about you.
"Arthur Lomax found
that he no longer dared
"to remove his spectacles.
Realism was no longer for him."
A fearless adventurer
who trades in passion
pain and fantasy?
Arthur Lomax is you, Vita.
You just dedicated "Seducers"
to me, don't you see?
- How unsettling.
- What?
That you seem to understand
my work better than I do.
When I read your work,
I don't know
whether to be dejected
or encouraged.
What do you mean?
Dejected because I shall never
be able to write like that
or encouraged
because somebody else can.
- Do keep it up.
- What?
The belief
that I achieve things.
I have need of it.
I am bewitched by your writing.
It makes me afraid of you.
It's all rhythm.
Once you get that,
you can't use the wrong words.
A sight, an emotion,
creates a wave in the mind
long before you have the words
to describe it.
When writing,
that is what you must recapture.
That wave as it breaks
and tumbles in the mind.
If you listen, it will make
the words to fit it.
I must get back.
I only stayed out this long
because Leonard's reading
"Mrs. Dalloway"
and I couldn't bear to be there.
Goodness, Ginia.
Are you alright?
Just tell me what you think.
It's your best yet.
Absolutely the best.
You shouldn't be so fearful,
specially of what I think.
"The state in which you live
at Charleston
"is not modern but immoral.
"And making a nonsense
of your marriage
"by knitting your life together
with a man
"who is not your husband.
You know, of course,
Mr. Grant is a homosexual."
What reason is there to think
I don't tell Clive everything?
If anything, you share too much.
I am completely indifferent
to anything
the world may have to say about
me and my husband or my children.
You seem indifferent.
And I don't know
why you're laughing!
I'm laughing at your rage,
I knew you wouldn't like
"Mrs. Dalloway."
- But I did like it.
- No, you didn't.
- Just say you didn't like it.
- I won't.
...on the house
if we don't disband...
It's not half as debauched
down there
as she seems to think.
It might be fun if it were.
You live exactly as you wish
at our house.
The house
we have made yours too.
How do you say such a thing?
I live exactly as I wish, do I?
Mm, positively angelic,
aren't you, Duncan?
No one's forcing you
to live here.
I thought it dazzling,
evasive and infuriating.
Exactly like you.
Well, there you are then.
Nessa, I've always admired
your handling of life
as if it were a thing
one can throw out.
But I cannot think of any book
I will read more often
than "The Common Reader."
There are passages
I should like to know by heart.
Of course,
you prefer "The Common Reader."
- It's easy meat.
- Clive!
- Well, it is.
- "Dalloway" is the thing.
It is an organism.
It is alive.
I wish
you could understand that.
Why do you think that I don't?
Because in your work,
you cling to technique.
You don't understand
that once you've mastered it
you should throw it up
in the air
and let it smash
on the pavement.
Right. Enough of all this.
I need to show you something
in the studio.
I need my harshest critics
throwing fire at the canvas.
Oh, now come on.
I'm staying at Knole
this weekend.
Come with me and stay the night.
No, no, impossible.
I've only got torn clothes.
I'd have to eat behind a screen.
You'd be ashamed of me.
You'd say things you'll regret.
I don't think
I've ever wanted anything
so much in my whole life.
Would you be very kind to me?
I'll pick you up on Saturday
at midday.
- Virginia.
- Vita.
- Hello, Leonard.
- Hello, Vita.
- Drive safely.
- Don't worry, Leonard.
We have the sandwiches
and the champagne ready, do we?
- Yes.
- Very good.
- I think she...
- What an exquisite hat.
Very brave.
Hello. You are very welcome.
- Hello!
- Hello, darling.
Hello, darling.
This is Geoffrey Scott
and Dorothy Wellesley.
I thought they'd round out
our little party.
And this is Virginia Woolf.
How lovely of you all
to allow me to join you.
Don't be silly.
It's so sweet
that you were free.
Well, don't just stand there.
Do come up.
I'll take this to be ironed,
Mrs. Woolf.
- Behave.
- It's very good.
What do you think
of this place, Mrs. Woolf?
Vita tells me
you're damn hard to impress.
I do so hope we all pass muster.
The past is expressive here,
not dumb and forgotten.
All the centuries seem lit up.
All about the place
a crowd of people
stand behind you
not dead at all.
How obscure you are.
I think you've listened
a little too intently
to what you've heard about me.
Forgive me my faults, Virginia.
They are silly surface things.
I want to show you a place
that really means
something to me.
This is where I got married.
It must feel very sacred.
...a ritual
performed on this spot
permanently tore me apart
from this place.
A play.. which my part
was to be powerless
to be passed
from one line of men to another.
But you do love Harold?
Of course, I do. Very much.
But this house, it made me.
Our separation
has been my greatest pain.
It is where my soul is,
where my family are.
I've been cheated
out of my home.
I cannot have her
simply because I am a woman.
It's as though for years
I've had an affair with a lover
who never belonged to me
We've been forced apart
by stupid, ancient laws
and I can only visit her.
Are you alright, Virginia?
Yes, I'm fine.
Where is she?
With the Mad Hatter, I suppose.
Are you sure you're
feeling better, Virginia?
I'm sure.
Leonard will be furious
with me.
Why did you bring
Dottie and Geoffrey?
I can't.
I've tried..
...with Leonard..
...but I... I... I..
...manner had grown upon him
and he took little parts
in the games.
The children wearing the spoils
of their crackers
danced and romped noisily.
I wonder if I could render
one of your paintings
into prose.
You're hardly wanting
for inspiration.
"Mrs. Dalloway"
has been so much admired.
Are you pleased?
I do write damned well
Almost as well as your sister
paints, do you think?
But almost consistently better
than you do.
What does Vita think?
It doesn't matter.
It's not her mind I admire.
What exactly happened at Knole?
She lavishes a kind
of maternal protection on me
but her friendship
is never untinged with desire.
I wonder what exactly they do
with one another
these sapphists.
I really can't imagine.
Nessa, of course, you can.
It must be marvelous.
All those velvet curves
It does seem a shame to forfeit
actual penetration though.
And what makes you think
they forfeit that?
But do you like her, Virginia?
I like her... maturity..
...and her voluptuousness.
Do you think
there's something wrong with me?
Something disconnected?
You are capable of so much love.
And one has room
for many different shades of it.
The truth is I worry
I'm not quite allowed
to desire
in the same way as you.
Sex isn't the most
important thing, you know.
That's what people say
when it's easy for them.
I was not intended to be
just a diplomat's wife.
Well, that is what you are
amongst a great
many other things
which I've never objected to.
But in Tehran, I will have
more responsibilities
than ever before
and I cannot be there
without a wife.
Wife? You needn't administer
the word with such venom.
- I deliver the word as fact.
- So I'm to play the role?
What is a wife if not a role?
And I'm to be thrown together
with people
with whom
I have nothing in common
except the place we happen
to find ourselves in?
Yes, Tehran will be
much the same
as any of my other postings.
I can't bear it this time.
Oh, I'm sorry
that diplomats and their wives
don't talk about copulation
with the same readiness
as your friends.
And I'd feel
a great deal happier
if you didn't see your friends
for a while.
They make nothing but muddles.
I'm not in any muddle
at the moment.
- Geoffrey?
- That was never anything much.
And he's quite happily gone back
to his tiresome wife.
- Dorothy?
- I haven't seen her.
Your maid. The French one.
Wh... what was she called?
- Genoux. No.
- Violet?
I don't even know where she is.
And Virginia?
That is not a muddle
and never can be.
She's utterly unattainable.
Which makes her
even more desirable.
You know, I can't help but think
that this furious display
has more to do with the timing
than the duties
you've more than
happily performed for years.
God forbid
I should wrench you away
from your precious
genius invalid.
Harold, please stop this.
I don't question
your indulgences.
I never play with fire, Vita,
because I don't have the luxury
of flirting with scandal
as you do
and I always, always choose
to be with you in the end.
You never take risks?
Lord Curzon, Raymond...
This arrangement works
because I allow it!
Don't you dare believe that!
I want you with me, Vita.
We've been together
for only ten weeks this year.
I find it all so meaningless
without you.
It hurts me, Vita.
- Well, for how long?
- Only four or five months.
- Only?
- Think of seeing Persia.
Do you think you might write
another travelogue for us, Vita?
"Seducers in Ecuador" was such
a success for the press.
I thought you'd never ask.
It might breathe some life
into the stale domestic duties
I'll have to perform for Harold.
Of course,
I'll never see you again.
Of course, you'll see me again.
Do you think I'm going
to get kidnapped by brigands?
I know
it doesn't make you envious.
You prefer
your misty old Bloomsbury.
But I do wish Leonard
would let me steal you away.
Take you with me,
put you in the sun...
And I wish you would stop
saying things like that.
You know
it would never be possible.
I shall miss you..
...more than
you'll ever believe.
She'd never say anything
as simple as that
would she, Leonard?
She clothes everything she says
in such exquisite phrases,
things lose their meaning.
Maybe you don't understand
the nature of the truth
that Virginia unearths.
She has the clearest mind
I've ever known.
Always, always, always,
I try to say how I feel.
I shall miss you dreadfully.
Everything here
will seem dull and damp
and if you don't believe that,
you're an ass.
Is that simple enough for you?
I think we'd better be
saying goodbye, Vita.
I shan't make you want me
by giving myself away like this.
You can't think me
that ruthless, can you?
Close the door.
It's bitter out there.
The only way I can deal
with Egypt is alphabetically.
Alabaster, Americans, Arabs
bromides, buffaloes, beggars
camels, crocodiles, colossi
dust, dervishes, desert
Egyptians, elation,
fellaheen, flies
goats, granite,
hotels, hieroglyphics
imshi, ignorance,
jibbahs, Kodaks
Levantines, mummies,
mud, millionaires
Nubia, obsidian
pyramids, quarries,
ruins, sarcophagi
Tutankhamun, utopia,
vultures, Virginia.
I feel dissipated..
...and aimless.
I feel as if
a dark pool of sticky water
were closing over me.
It's that you're not here.
Does anything ever actually
happen to Mrs. Dalloway?
Not really.
She just gives the party.
Golly, I'm hooked.
More poetry from your Pharisee?
He's in love with you,
of course.
Is he still teaching you Arabic?
No, this is from Virginia.
You've finally caught your prey?
- I suppose I have.
- Are you happy now?
"'Mrs. Ramsay, ' Lily cried..
"...but nothing happened.
"'The anguish could reduce one
to such a pitch of imbecility, '
she thought."
It's good, Ginia.
It's always good.
How very rude. I'd like
to see you give it a go.
She just finished
"To The Lighthouse."
It's remarkable.
So confused in her letters.
It's what I read.
What is in Vita's past
is all in my future
but in reading it,
in consuming it..
...suddenly it's all over.
She's no longer coasting
in Baluchistan.
She's riding in a cab
in Baghdad.
She's just asleep. She's dead.
The present tense
has become meaningless.
I heard she traveled
all the way from Luxor
to Cairo
with the train on fire.
Yes! Flames licking out
from under the carriage.
All those smoldering diplomats.
And all that chaos,
all that violence.
- Do you know what she said?
- What?
Simply that it gave her
a lingering regret
for the Southeastern.
And what else
does she write of?
She's crawled
through ramparts of snow
been attacked by bandits
seen hills
stained with copper sulfate
mud towns at nightfall
dead camels pecked by vultures,
dying men.
And does she make you
want to write or to live?
But how to make sense of her,
- What do you mean?
- All her fragments.
She makes me feel as if language
is miserably insufficient.
You must let the eye
lick it all up.
All that deliciousness
and then the brain
will settle itself down
and watch things happening
without troubling itself
to think.
Yes, the eye licks it up,
but the brain can't.
- The... the brain can't..
- What?
- What?
- Live.
- Virginia, are you alright?
- I'm so sorry.
The eye and the brain..
I'm so sorry.
The... the eye and the brain..
I can't..
The eye and..
The eye and..
I'm so sorry.
Virginia. Wait!
Just give her a moment.
I feel as though
my mind were driven
to some remote corner
of my body.
Don't worry, my darling.
I'll bring you back
to the surface.
Give her
all the usual sedatives.
Absolute rest and quiet.
We might just avoid a crisis.
Is she writing?
She's just finished a novel.
I fear the writing is what
brings on the breakdowns.
If you stop her writing,
she'll die.
I sometimes feel
that women can't cope
with too much gray matter.
I'm not a doctor, of course
but I do know a few men
who've had bouts of instability
though I couldn't say whether
it was because of their genius.
I do think the world is rather
short of brilliant minds
and I'm happy to see it
in either sex.
What fools would we be
to deny women a voice
lest they laugh at us?
The doctor has sent me to bed.
Tried to forbid all writing.
So this is my swansong.
One thing has remained
a beacon..
...these past six weeks
of lying in bed.
You believe in my strength..
...that I am no invalid.
I wish that you were well
and that you could come
and see me
so we may live
in the present moment together.
You must promise to get better.
You are a very,
very remarkable person.
You are one
perpetual achievement.
I've settled down
to wanting you..
I hope at last this pleases you.
It's damned unpleasant for me.
I need to go home.
It's Virginia, isn't it?
- Salaam alaikum.
- Walaikum salaam.
A full-blown affair with her
would be like smoking
over a petrol tank.
God, the next person
who kisses my hand
will get his face slapped.
- Good evening.
- Good evening.
Hypocrisy, Harold.
Brazen hypocrisy.
It's clear to me
that you believe yourself
to be in love with Virginia.
So let me say what I couldn't
during that dreadful confusion
with Violet.
There are several kinds
of love, Vita.
Yours for Virginia lives here.
It constricts.
It panics. It consumes.
It is selfish and corrosive.
The other.. an outpouring
of everything good in you..
...and it lives here.
It is what I feel for you.
I'm going back.
I'm sorry, but she really
mustn't see anyone.
I'm sure you understand.
You're sure even I couldn't help
cheer her up?
It isn't quite so simple
as just cheering her up, Vita.
- Well..
- I'm having trouble convincing her to take a glass of milk.
This may be a little ambitious.
Of course.
How silly of me.
I... I... I don't think you'd be
quite so cross with me
if you knew how very much
I approve
of your care of Virginia.
I just thought I could help ease
things a little for you all
if she came to stay with me.
I brought this for you
from Harold's library.
I thought it might distract you.
I am good for her,
you know, Leonard.
I don't doubt
there's some truth in that.
You will let me know
if she's in any... danger?
I promise.
Now she's been able to sleep
for a few hours..
...and stopped talking
But she still won't eat.
I'll do what I can
to persuade her.
What do you think of Ginia
going to stay with Vita?
- Does Virginia want to see her?
- Yes.
Maybe it would be good for her.
Then there's Vita's reputation.
Well, Vita can try to seduce her
but she wouldn't get very far,
will she?
She's not entirely devoid
of physical desire, Nessa!
Oh, my goodness, Leonard,
of course not.
Well, if you think going to stay
with Vita will do her good..
...I shan't stop her.
I know it's very hard on you,
I simply don't believe
in jealousy, Nessa.
One must screw it up
and throw it out
like a useless manuscript.
What a relief it is to finally
be alone with you again.
I promised Leonard
I'd have you in bed by 11:00
and I always try
to keep my promises.
I can't even think of sleeping.
I have a million things
not so much to say,
as to sink into you.
I wonder if death feels
anything like that.
It's as if all of a sudden..
...time gets stuck..
...and you feel empty.
Are you happy?
But do I know you
better than before?
I do think
she is very beautiful, Ginia.
She's an aristocrat
of an ancient race.
Well, all that ancestry
certainly has bred
a perfect body.
And I thought
you admired her writing.
Only to rile you, Ginia.
She's hardly
breaking boundaries.
Oh, don't be acidic, Clive.
It isn't easy
for a woman to work.
No, don't worry, Nessa.
I'm sure
Vita can console herself
with her vast wealth
and privilege.
Come on, Julian.
Let's play your new record.
I'm relying on your generation
to get rid of the class system
- Come on, Virginia.
- Mm?
Let us hear about your romance.
Have you been to bed
with Vita yet?
- Yes, Duncan. I have.
- You have?
- Vanessa, Leonard will hear.
- I think he probably knows.
And how does it feel?
I've never experienced
anything so perfectly..
...indescribably physical.
The garden is all dug over,
hedges planted
masses of orange lilies
in the borders
and new roses in the oil jars.
So really all we have to do now
is get rid of the poplars
and remove the lilac
from the bed under the window.
And remove Mrs. Woolf
from the bed in your room.
Apart from the fact
that I like the Woolfs
you must know, Vitti,
that it's dangerous.
Hadji darling,
please don't be anxious.
I'm devoted to her as a friend,
but I'm not in love with her.
It's a spiritual thing.
She grounds me, I think.
She forces me
to think seriously.
I've been so wretched and lonely
without you.
There's absolutely nothing
for you to be jealous about.
This is not how we live, Vitti.
I do.
I do love you.
All those sparkling minds
you surround yourself with..
...none of them love you
as much as I love you.
Leonard's going to be strict
with me.
He says
I've been doing too much.
Would you ever leave Leonard
and come away with me?
I'm serious.
Will you?
- Leave Leonard?
- Yes.
I can't.
I'd lose my footing. I..
I can live in perfect freedom
with him without any fear.
You know you've broken down
more barriers than anyone
but I can't.
I simply can't.
If you leave me stranded,
I will hurt you.
I know I will.
Why must you always grasp
for more?
Even when I'm in bed with you
you insist
on conjuring fantasies.
You with your fears,
me with my fantasies.
Maybe our perversions
simply aren't compatible.
I don't see
why you couldn't stay with me
for a few days longer.
You could write perfectly well
at Knole.
I can't bear delivering you
back to Bloomsbury.
You know I need to be there
to write clearly...
I don't like to think of you
all cooped up down there
with Leonard fussing over you.
I need Leonard.
And I love him.
How he makes sure
that I'm settled..
...that I'm well.
But you are.
You are well.
It's taken me
such a long time to find..
Do you know what I would do
if you weren't a person
to be so strict with?
I'd steal my motor
out of the garage tonight
be in Bloomsbury by 11:00
and throw stones at your window.
You'd come down and let me in
and I'd stay with you all night.
But you being you, I can't.
For a different Virginia,
I'd fly to London in the night.
You have as much of me
as I have to give.
Vita, if your promise
was a challenge..
...come then.
Come tonight.
Chance missed.
I am so sorry.
Will you and Leonard
meet Harold and I together?
I was going to suggest
the weekend of the eclipse.
Harold does so much
want you both to come.
I neglected to thank you
for your kind review
of my book, Virginia.
It was quite an achievement,
You wrote your characters
as if they were at once
real and imaginary.
Biographies can enlarge our
understanding of who people really are
by hanging up mirrors
in odd corners.
I can't help but think
how essential it is to do so
when we live in an age
where a thousand cameras
are pointed at every person
from every angle.
Newspapers, politics..
How do you suppose Vita will be
rendered by her biographer?
As a diplomat's wife
and a celebrated novelist?
Or an insatiable lover
notorious for her trysts
for the torment to which
she subjected her poor husband?
I suppose that depends
on how your own chapter
with Vita will end.
If we were talking at Charleston
we'd be surprised to hear
about love.
Clive says he's worked it out.
And one spends
three hours a day on food,
six on sleep, four on work
and two on love.
Vanessa says ten on love.
I say a whole day on love.
I say it's seeing things
through a purple shade.
But you've never been in love,
they say.
How many hours do you suppose
one spends on sex..
...and thinking about it
turning the sensation of it
over in your mind
the ghost of it?
Everyone's body
is haunted by it
long after its reverberations
are over.
Dearest creature.
And when I see you again..
...I want you more and more.
You like to think of
me unhappy, I know.
How nice it is of me
to be writing to you
when you're not
writing to me at all.
Is she here?
I haven't seen her anywhere,
but I know Duncan asked her.
Perhaps she can't get up to town
this week.
Have you seen Vita, Duncan?
No, but she answered to me
so I expect we will very soon.
Leonard, have you seen Vita?
Please try to keep calm.
You're extremely late!
I brought Ben and Nigel
to see mother this afternoon.
And when I mentioned
I was coming here
she became hysterical
and started screaming
about all those homosexual
conscientious objectors.
- Clive, this is Mary Campbell.
- Pleasure.
- A pleasure to meet you.
- Nice to meet you.
What a fool I've been
to be so open with someone
who kept strands of themselves
hidden from me.
Oh, darling.
I can't stand myself like this.
Enough now, Ginia.
This must be enough.
Did she say
where she was going?
She didn't.
What did you say to her?
That Vita had betrayed her.
Why on earth would you say that?
Because it is the truth,
There's no use in telling
poisonous truths, Vanessa.
None at all.
Least of all to Virginia.
You know that.
...I've had the most
wonderful idea.
You know how I haven't been able
to screw a word out for weeks.
No ideas, nothing,
then suddenly..
it came to me like a fin
rising out of the water.
I rushed back here,
I dipped my pen in ink
and I wrote
almost automatically.
"Orlando, A Biography."
Who is Orlando?
A 16th century man
who's also a woman.
I'll need to get her to talk
about all those ancestors.
I'll need to get her
to talk about everything.
- Who?
- Vita!
Orlando stood stark naked.
No human being
since the world began
has ever looked more ravishing.
His form combined in one
the strength of a man
and a woman's grace.
We may take advantage
of this pause in the narrative
to make certain statements.
Orlando had become a woman,
there is no denying it.
At the age of 30,
this young nobleman
had not only had
every experience
that life has to offer
but had seen
the worthlessness of them all.
Love and ambition
women and poets
were all equally vain.
Literature was a farce.
Two things alone remained to him
in which he now put any trust
dogs and nature
an elkhound and a rosebush.
The world in all its variety
life in all its complexity
had shrunk to that.
You're going to project me
into the shape of this Orlando?
Yes, it's all about you.
Lusts of your flesh
and the lure of your mind.
You'll shoot through time
like an arrow.
You'll be a man, a woman,
an ancient, a modern.
- What do you think?
- What fun for you?
It is to be
a sort of imaginative biography.
There will be portraits
of your ancestors
photographs, illustrations.
And you must dedicate it
to your victim.
And I'll need to see you
To sit and look at you,
get you to talk
correct any doubtful points.
I should like to untwine
and twist again
the very odd,
incongruous strands in you.
Roy and Mary say
they've no hot water.
Shall I send Parsons
over to them?
- Yes, Hadji darling.
- Hello, Virginia.
Roy and Mary Campbell are
staying in our boys' cottage.
And why not?
Virginia, I would like
to explain about Mary.
To... apologize.
No, please don't.
It would bore me.
If you've given yourself to Mary
I'll have no more
to do with you.
So it shall be written plainly
for all the world
to read in "Orlando."
I'm incapable of creating
one perfect relationship.
I've tried and failed
at doing so my whole life.
It is a terrible muddle,
isn't it?
But any vengeance
you want to take
will lie ready to your hand.
...when was the moment of your
greatest disillusionment?
The first time I saw a penis.
Nessa darling, it's supposed
to look like Knole.
It does look like Knole.
Don't you think
it looks like Knole, Duncan?
I'm not getting
in the middle of this.
That's unlike you.
I didn't think
you were serious about putting
real photographs of me
in the book, Virginia.
I want "Orlando" to feel
as if it could be true.
I do feel rather exposed.
And that's exactly
how we want you.
Sit still, Vita. We've just
got you looking perfect.
Doesn't she look perfect,
Nessa, hm?
Hmm. It's looking marvelous,
I think.
Well, Vita, if you'd try
to relax a little
it would look even better.
I'm trying jolly hard,
I assure you, Vanessa.
Do you think you have to feel
more powerful than someone
to be sexually attracted
to them?
My goodness, what a question.
You do have the air
of the conqueror about you.
I suppose it does give me
immense pleasure...
To give pain?
Do you think yourself
good or bad?
It was miserable, Hadji.
Draped in an inadequate piece
of pink satin
with all my clothes slipping off
whilst they took
endless photographs.
Virginia was thrilled,
but I couldn't help feeling
an overwhelming urge to escape.
- Have you read it?
- No.
She absolutely won't
let me see a draft.
- How's Berlin?
- Miserable without you, Vita.
Yes, I'm desperate
to get to you.
I feel as if
I'm itching all over.
- When can you come?
- In a few days, I think.
Are you sure
all this time with Vita
isn't too much
of a strain on you?
Do you not think
I look full of life?
You do.
But are you happy?
I'm rapturously,
ecstatically happy.
I can revolutionize biography
with the story of a hero
who turns into a heroine
and she turns out to be fiction.
Which is, of course,
what all biographies are. are ended.
These our actors,
as I foretold you
were all spirits
and are melted..
...into thin air.
Must you go?
We have so much work to do.
I must visit Harold in Berlin.
I can't leave a diplomat without
a dutiful wife for too long.
This is important work, Vita.
You're part of something
like a revolution.
There's never been a woman's
biography, not like this.
Chastity, modesty,
have always prevented it.
And, of course,
I have neither of those.
I wish you would take
something seriously, Vita.
I'm trying to capture
your essence.
Biographies have always
described the things
that happened to the person
not the person
to whom those things happened.
I'm trying to tunnel into you.
Do you not understand
how important this is?
How special this is?
And how lucky I am, I suppose
to be the great
Mrs. Woolf's muse.
And what if
after all that tunneling
you find nothing there?
Once you've pinned me down
with your pen..
...what will you do with me?
Or will you be
finished with me?
I don't know.
Lady Sackville.
I didn't know
I was to expect you.
I didn't know
I was to expect this.
I don't think you realize
how explosive this is
from inside your debauched
bohemian bubble.
But out there in proper society
you're putting Vita
in great danger.
Vita and her boys.
I gather the only person
who has ever threatened
to remove Ben and Nigel
from their mother is you.
You're a mad woman
whose successful mad desire
is to separate people
that care for each other.
Your work has a kind
of violence to it
that either you're unaware of
or too reckless to control.
Thank God you don't have
children of your own.
- I thought you were in Berlin.
- I was, but now I'm here.
I have fallen in love
with your vision of me.
Were you not hurt or angry?
It struck me that you might be.
I feel like a mannequin
in a shop window
on which you've hung a robe
stitched with fine jewels.
How could you have hung
so splendid a garment
on such a poor peg?
Oh, Virginia, it's the wisest
richest book I've ever read.
My darling, what are you doing?
I'm baking a cake.
Nelly's given notice.
I have guests for tea.
You'll poison them.
I've lived in you so long
that now I see you.
I wonder do you exist
or have I made you up?
I feel terribly real right now.
You have found me again.
I won't be loved
only in a fictitious world.
Let's go away together now
before the gossip starts.
Please, Virginia.
Yes. Absolutely.
I don't know why you can't say
when exactly you'll be back.
I need to know
how long we'll be apart.
Now you're being sentimental.
We don't do that.
No, I'm being truthful.
It's entirely rational.
I shall worry about you
all the time.
Leonard, stop.
You just finished a book.
You know you'll be fraught
with nerves
until the reviews come in.
That's the time you go under...
Well, this time feels different.
Yes, it does.
This feels different.
That's why
I don't want you to go.
Writing "Orlando" gave me the
greatest rapture I've ever known.
Which is why now is a very
dangerous time for you.
- I'll be with Vita.
- That's what worries me.
Oh, your protection of me
sometimes verges
on the unwholesome.
I shan't stop you going..
...but I will ask you
to think very carefully
about what it is you think
is possible with Vita.
Virginia, are you alright?
What are you doing out here?
I've been wondering if lightning
struck the house, collapsed
what it would be like
to be crushed to death.
Oh, my dearest.
I've got it fairly vivid.
Would it be painful?
Terrifying? I suppose so.
A swoon, a drum,
gulps attempting consciousness
and then dot, dot, dot.
I can't bear to think
of your dying.
I don't think
it's gonna happen today.
I was just imagining it.
- Don't you do that?
- No.
I do.
I do think with intense
curiosity about death.
It could be a great excitement
like going over Niagara.
But it is the one experience
I will never
be able to describe.
Do you ever feel that you record
things rather than feel them?
Oh, you're tearing open
that old wound.
You've always thought
I had look on everything
on everyone, as something
for my pen to exploit.
I was thinking about myself.
There is something about you
that doesn't connect.
What do you mean?
You demand utter devotion.
But it is as if
you are surrounded
by a cloud of obscure fog.
And when..
...when I loved you.. felt as if
you could not reach through
to take my hand
as I held it out to you.
It's in your writing.
Something evasive but sparkling.
A lack of fidelity, I suppose.
When you loved me?
I did.
Very much.
And I still do,
but not in the same way.
So after all that tunneling
into me with "Orlando"
you found me an empty shell?
I listened.
"If you leave me stranded,
I will hurt you."
I recorded those words
every way I know how.
I wrote them down,
I scored them into my heart
and in "Orlando,"
I set you free.
I created many versions of you
to live unconstrained.
I captured Knole.
I gave you
what you'll never inherit.
Sometimes I do feel as though
I observe things
from the outside..
...rather than feel them.
Perhaps you care more for things
than for people.
This place still twists
your heart
more than any person ever has.
So you think I'm very cold?
Quite the opposite.
Quite the opposite.
A million candles
burn in you, Vita.
You're an exploding star
refracting light
across the universe.
But it means you are incapable
of shining your light
on one thing,
on one person alone.
And not.. the end..
...on me.
So what happens now?
The end is already written.
"Orlando naturally loved
"solitary places, vast views..
"...and to feel himself
forever and ever alone."