Ordet (12A)

Film

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>5</span>/5
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Time Out says

Mon Mar 5 2012

‘Powerful’ doesn’t do justice to this 1955 exploration of life, death and faith from Danish master Carl Theodor Dreyer, whose films are celebrated at BFI Southbank throughout the month. Based on Kaj Munk’s 1932 play, ‘Ordet’ is an austere, realist work on one level as it joins a farming family in their Jutland home over a short but devastating period of time.

Most of the drama unfolds in their living room, with Dreyer’s camera curiously following elderly Morten (Henrik Malberg) as his three grown-up sons, Mikkel (Emil Hass Christensen), Anders (Cay Kristiansen) and Johannes (Preben Lerdorff Rye) struggle respectively with atheism and the illness of a pregnant wife; a desire to marry a girl from a family of a more stringent branch of Christianity; and a madness that brings on a Christ complex. But, on another level, this is a deeply spiritual, mysterious and wonderfully odd and bold work as Dreyer reaches to the heavens and beyond for answers. It’s what Terrence Malick’s ‘Tree of Life’ might have been if filmed by Ingmar Bergman.

‘Ordet’ looks and sounds momentous: the extremes of Dreyer’s photography suggest that the dark and light of life are inhabiting this very house, while for most of the film we hear storms howling outdoors and a clock ticking indoors, both of which focus the mind on the enormity of the drama without distracting from its quiet detail and calm pace. Munk’s play raises many debates. The conflict between Morten and his son Anders’s potential father-in-law, Peter (Ejner Federspiel), highlights the absurdity of doctrinal divisions, while varying levels of faith and reason come into conflict with the presence of both a pastor and a doctor as Inger (Birgitte Federspiel), Mikkel’s wife, enters a difficult labour which threatens to take her life.

It’s impossible to write about ‘Ordet’ without mentioning the extraordinary coup de cinema that graces the film’s final ten minutes. Yet it’s also unfair to reveal it to newcomers. Suffice to say that if you felt you were getting a grip on what ‘Ordet’ is ‘about’ and what Munk or Dreyer wish to ‘say’, then this moment throws everything into relief. It’s not a film that can be easily dissected. It’s chaos dressed as reason.However great our wisdom, however reassuring our faith (or lack of it), ‘Ordet’ reminds us how in the end we know little about the mysteries of life. Dreyer manages to say all this within the framework of a strange, wondrous and shocking work. Once seen, it’s unlikely to leave you.

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Release details

Rated:

12A

UK release:

Fri Mar 9, 2012

Duration:

125 mins

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Technoguy

Dreyer comes as a revelation.Set in 1920s Denmark centred on the Borgen family farm. Within one family we have variations of belief. The stern paterfamilias, Morten Borgen who's own belief is of a life-affirming Christianity of the mainstream. His eldest son.Mikkel is a humanist agnostic.His wife Ingers, is a true believer who ,hopes she can lead her husband back to the faith. Then there is Anders,who has fallen in love with Anne a neighbours daughter from a stricter fundamentalist sect.However Johannes is seen preaching to nature outside in the dunes and grasses.He has become mentally deranged after reading Kierkegaard while training as a Pastor.He clearly upsets his family wandering as he does in and out of rooms and touched by his pure incantatory faith.He observes others loss of faith as he passes them. He tells the Pastor he is Jesus of Nazareth.The Pastor asks how he can prove it as he comes across as somewhat sceptical.Johannes is dismayed at the state of the state church which cannot believe in miracles. Peter the fundamentalist does not want Anders to marry his daughter and Morten being wealthier,is so put out by this he pays Peter a visit to have it out with him with Anders.Peter and Morten fight and Peter wishes upon Morten a shocking event to wake him up. The shock comes as his daughter-in-law- shown earlier to be the hub of the farmstead,ministering to all the family members care with a gentle,caring, compassionate disposition- has a premature delivery and loses her baby son.She also loses her life after a deterioration. The beliefs that people hold do not unite them.Johannes thinks it a disgrace that nobody wished Inger to come to life. He is led by the hand of his neice who literally believes he can do the impossible and perform a miracle in a mysterious climax.Johannes has a miraculous return to sanity and instead of believing he is Jesus Christ he invokes Jesus Christ over the dead body. I wont give away the ending:it's something the spectator has to see themselves in order to believe it.The camera is moving all the time between people,diagonally,up and down ,across the cabin floor and from scene to scene and room to room.There is a complex combination of rhythms, from the gliding camera right to the way the lines are read.The camera tracks and pans each character at a distance.There is a continuous,flowing, horizontally gliding movement.Every character has their distinctive walk and speech and facial expression. Only when Johannes recognizes his delusion does he receive spiritual power,who seems to be given the 'word' that can bring the dead alive.The cinematic illusion makes us believe the unbelievable.The quality of the whole mise-en-scene gives a larger than life transcendence to this group of slow moving and slow talking actors.Based on a play by Munk was a playwright and country priest killed by the Nazis due to his living and dying by the 'word'(ordet).

Technoguy

Dreyer comes as a revelation.Set in 1920s Denmark centred on the Borgen family farm. Within one family we have variations of belief. The stern paterfamilias, Morten Borgen who's own belief is of a life-affirming Christianity of the mainstream. His eldest son.Mikkel is a humanist agnostic.His wife Ingers, is a true believer who ,hopes she can lead her husband back to the faith. Then there is Anders,who has fallen in love with Anne a neighbours daughter from a stricter fundamentalist sect.However Johannes is seen preaching to nature outside in the dunes and grasses.He has become mentally deranged after reading Kierkegaard while training as a Pastor.He clearly upsets his family wandering as he does in and out of rooms and touched by his pure incantatory faith.He observes others loss of faith as he passes them. He tells the Pastor he is Jesus of Nazareth.The Pastor asks how he can prove it as he comes across as somewhat sceptical.Johannes is dismayed at the state of the state church which cannot believe in miracles. Peter the fundamentalist does not want Anders to marry his daughter and Morten being wealthier,is so put out by this he pays Peter a visit to have it out with him with Anders.Peter and Morten fight and Peter wishes upon Morten a shocking event to wake him up. The shock comes as his daughter-in-law- shown earlier to be the hub of the farmstead,ministering to all the family members care with a gentle,caring, compassionate disposition- has a premature delivery and loses her baby son.She also loses her life after a deterioration. The beliefs that people hold do not unite them.Johannes thinks it a disgrace that nobody wished Inger to come to life. He is led by the hand of his neice who literally believes he can do the impossible and perform a miracle in a mysterious climax.Johannes has a miraculous return to sanity and instead of believing he is Jesus Christ he invokes Jesus Christ over the dead body. I wont give away the ending:it's something the spectator has to see themselves in order to believe it.The camera is moving all the time between people,diagonally,up and down ,across the cabin floor and from scene to scene and room to room.There is a complex combination of rhythms, from the gliding camera right to the way the lines are read.The camera tracks and pans each character at a distance.There is a continuous,flowing, horizontally gliding movement.Every character has their distinctive walk and speech and facial expression. Only when Johannes recognizes his delusion does he receive spiritual power,who seems to be given the 'word' that can bring the dead alive.The cinematic illusion makes us believe the unbelievable.The quality of the whole mise-en-scene gives a larger than life transcendence to this group of slow moving and slow talking actors.Based on a play by Munk was a playwright and country priest killed by the Nazis due to his living and dying by the 'word'(ordet).