- A harrowing excursion into the miraculous. 2/22/1999 12:00:00 AM by terry-60
Ordet is about faith. It may be the most breathtaking exploration of religious experience ever filmed.
The story is simple, like an old tale. Borgen is a farmer. His son Anders loves Pedersen the tailor's daughter. But Borgen and Pedersen profess different faiths; Pedersen adheres to an austere fundamentalist belief while Borgen believes in an earthier, less metaphysical Christianity. While cordial to each other, both fathers oppose their children's wish to marry.
Borgen has two other sons, a cheerful agnostic named Michel, and Johannes, who studied to be a parson and who now has gone insane pondering the imponderables of faith and doubt. Johannes wanders out in the middle of the night to preach to the wind, and he declares to anyone who will listen that he is the risen Christ.
Michel's wife Inger is the key figure in the drama. She is a radiant, simple, hard-working wife and mother. She honors old Borgen, her father-in-law, and he clearly adores her. Michel and Inger have a frankly carnal love for one another; she is pregnant with their third child. She has the most elemental kind of Christian faith, and trusts that her husband's essential goodness of heart will lead him back to the fold.
All these characters and forces come together in a terrible crisis when Inger goes into premature labor. I'll not divulge the climax, for you should have the same experience of wonder and gratitude I--and probably most moviegoers who've ever seen it--had as it ended.
Two important notes: All this Christianity stuff may turn you off, may make you think Ordet is some gloomy Scandinavian meditation. Banish that thought. While slow-moving, the movie is not boring. The pace is perfect for the subject, and as the crisis comes and the film relentlessly heads toward climax, you cannot take your eyes off it, and your heart pounds in fear and anticipation of what will happen next. Nor is the picture especially intellectual. It is, rather, beautiful, and its themes are articulated in the language of cinema, not the categories of Kierkegaard.
That language, finally, is Carl Dreyer's. His unmistakable film grammar--the hauntingly lit intereriors, the long pans from place to place in the same room, the slightly detached yet intense performances, the most purely photographed exteriors in cinema, echoing the Danish pictorial tradition of Hammershoi, Pedersen, and others who worked a modest magic with the windswept elements of Denmark's hard land--this fiercely personal vision is put to the service of something rare in the movie business (or any other business): love.
- A Haunting and Beautiful Film 3/28/2006 12:00:00 AM by andrewnerger
Before watching 'Ordet' I was not familiar with Carl Theodore Dreyer's sound films. Having previously watched his beautiful 'La Passion de Jeanne D'Arc', I knew what kind of motifs and themes were going to be prevalent - the strong female character and the emphasis on religion. However as soon as 'Ordet' started and until its conclusion, I was mesmerised and it personally hit me much more effectively than 'Passion'. What has been called by many as Dreyer's masterpiece is also my definition of a perfect piece of cinema. The relatively slow pace of the narrative and the lack of much of Kaj Munk's original dialogue may put some off, but if anything it enhances not only the emotive performances, but also the sense of uneasiness; of lost faith and of lost loved ones. In theory, the ending of this film shouldn't work, but it somehow manages to pull off the surprising and still be effective. By the conclusion of 'Ordet' you can believe that miracles can happen. Dreyer enables us to witness a miracle using a display of his faith combined with his stunning Mise en scène. I may not be sure about God, but this film made you think about the possibilities without preaching any kind of sentimentality and that in my opinion warrants a 10 rating. Essential viewing!
- Living a film 10/4/2004 12:00:00 AM by inilopez
First, I must say I don't write in English very well. I study English, a little bit, in the school. I speak and write usually in Spanish and Basque. Well, I think this is one of the best movies I've ever seen. Johannes is a magnificent character and two scenes with Johannes and his nephew, talking about nephew's mother... are great. The story is about life, dead, love, faith and a lot of "people's problems" At the end, is a story about the meaning of life. I like movies. Love stories, westerns, "film noir", adventures films... but occasionally you can see a movie like this that makes you love this art too much. You're not seeing a film, you're living the film. Wonderful. Absolutely wonderful.
- Demanding melodrama which may reward concentration. 12/21/2000 12:00:00 AM by the red duchess
'Ordet', even by Dreyer standards, is a gruelling experience, but in a different way from 'the Passion of Joan of Arc', which, with almost sadistic intensity, thrust the viewer into a visceral pummelling, dragging the spiritual out of us. 'Ordet' is more typically Scandanavian, based on a play by Kaj Munk, a cleric-playwright murdered by the Gestapo during the Nazi Occupation of Denmark.
Its austerity and rigour are reminiscent of Bergman, without that director's lapses (i.e. audience-friendly gestures) into sensation. Like Bergman, Dreyer makes no attempts to hide the theatrical origins of his material - most of the action takes place in austere interiors that even look like sets in their oppressive spaciousness, just as you can hear the boards being trod. There are no harrowing close ups a la 'Passion' here; the camera keeps an unblinking distance throughout, as if we were watching a play in the theatre. The performances make no concessions to film acting, keeping a stern solemnity as they utter their tersely simple dialogue.
So why would Dreyer, one of the five greatest film directors of all time, make such a seemingly uncinematic picture? Part of the answer probably derives from the film's theme, that of faith and miracles. Although the film is as restrained and grim as you would expect from a Scandanavian work, the content is actually full of barely suppressed passion.
The situation and plots are straight out of classic 19th century realist literature - a stubbornly proud landowner refuses to let his youngest son marry a wealthy neighbour because of religious differences; his eldest son goes mad from studying too much theology, hoping to fulfil his father's messianic dreams, under the delusion that he is Jesus, with beard too match, although a joyless, Old-Testament kind of prophet-Jesus; another son has renounced his faith, disgusted with the daily evidence of God's indifference; his pious wife loses her baby in childbirth.
Material ripe for hothouse treatment. And yet Dreyer's reticence never lets it descend into 'Elmer Gantry'isms. The film works as a study in loneliness, in the limited options open to people in isolated outposts made rigid by tradition, religion, culture etc. Dreyer makes a virtue of the theatrical material: his use of doorways, his patterning of entries and exits, his positioning of characters, his calm yet insistent panning all created this sense of something being held in, ready to burst.
The film opens with a brilliantly orchestrated sequence, which introduces the characters, their dilemmas and their milieu, with a simple, yet intricate pattern, as each family member searches for the missing mad brother, a man linked to nature, the light and the dunes. his strictures are hard to take, and yet he is the one with the special knowledge and the miraculous power.
I'm not averse to miracles in cinema. I just found this one a little hard to take (it would certainly never have been produced in a Catholic country - Mother surviving baby? An outrage!). I prefer the way Dreyer turns the rare modern intrusions in the film, the doctor's car for instance, into a scary, almost medieval vision of death in motion; or the chillingly glum view of village life, in a film that keeps implicating the social only to drive it out. I guess you've got to have some knowledge of the theological background.
- A miracle! 3/16/2005 12:00:00 AM by lucien_de_peiro
What is a miracle? A fantastic event created by a supernatural entity? The hallucination of a person with a strong belief? or simply an inexplicable wonder? This absolutely wonderful movie speaks about that from the complicated side of contemplation. After watching it everything is possible, every answer, every reason, every justification. The facts, are related with an enviable sense of modesty. Even a stauncher atheist would find miraculous this Dreyer's masterpiece. Obviously, the development of the story line is slow, determined and thoughtful. This movie requires full attention, full involvement from the audience who will give the answers: don't wait for them in this perfect example of cinema beyond our daily human way of life. By the way, this is not a religious movie as many people think.