Monday, April 11, 2011


Carl Theodor Dreyer wasn't particularly busy during the silent era compared to some others, though he was certainly active, frequently directing films in various countries. But he slowed down after, with Ordet being only the fourth sound film he finished in the 27 years following the release of The Passion of Joan of Arc. Ordet is less inventive stylistically than Passion, but its simple production belies the power of the content, which I thought made it a richer and more emotional story. The film is about a family of farmers in early 20th century Denmark. There is a patriarch with three sons. One is married with two daughters and has lost his religion, one has been driven mad and believes himself to be Jesus Christ, and one who wants to marry a girl of another religion. The main issue with the second is obvious, but problems arise with the others as the first's pregnant wife goes into a difficult labor and the third's marriage seems doomed as both their fathers refuse to allow a member of another faith into their family.

The central figure is the father Morten, who is played well by Henrik Malberg and struggles to balance all of the troubles his children bring him. He's a wise man but not an infallible one, and the way he learns and grows over the course of the story is very interesting. The film is based on a play, which shows in the limited scope of the production, though the type of family story and religious study it is prevents that static feeling from seeming to limit it or hold it back. I found the ending to be very surprising, because it changes the nature of the entire plot if you don't see it coming, shifting it from a meditation on religious beliefs to something else entirely. I thought it worked though for whatever reason, though I don't think a movie made today would be able to get away with the same thing without a bit more set up. Ordet is one of those movies that I thought I was going to be entirely bored by, but I ended up becoming invested in somewhere along the way and impressed by its ability to move me a little. I certainly don't recommend it to everyone, but it was better than I hoped for.

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