Eyes dilated, lips parted, wild hair, head thrown back and clothing awry, a woman is swaying and undulating, seemingly in the throes of a crazed trance. Or maybe she’s drunk, drugged, or in terrible pain? This is our first full sight of my great-aunt and namesake Virginia Woolf, played by Elizabeth Debicki in a new film, Vita & Virginia, written and directed by Chanya Button and, where accuracy is concerned, it sets the tone for the movie.
Vita & Virginia tells the story of the relationship between two 20th-century literary celebrities — Woolf and Vita Sackville-West. The bare facts are these: their love affair took off in 1925 when Virginia, a respected author, was 43, and Vita, a more popular novelist, was ten years younger; both were married. But whereas Virginia was sexually timid, Vita was voraciously carnal — and scandalous — having caused mayhem in 1919 by running off, disguised as a man, with the society beauty Violet Trefusis.