The great Danish director Carl Theodor Dreyer (The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr
), regarded by many to be one of the greatest filmmakers to ever work, returned to filmmaking following Day of Wrath
(1943) and Two People
(1945, later disowned by Dreyer, having made it during Swedish exile) the decade prior, to make Ordet [The Word]
, his second-to-last feature (preceding Gertrude
) and his only film in the 1950's. Adapted by Danish pastor Kaj Munk from his own play, Dreyer was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and Ordet
is now regarded as one of the most powerful films ever made about the themes of love, faith, spirituality and the presence of miracles.
centers around the Borgen family in rural Denmark. The devout
widower Morten (Henrik Malberg), patriarch of the family, prominent member of the
community, and patron of the local parish church, has three sons.
Mikkel (Emil Hass Christensen), the eldest, has no faith, but is happily married to the pious
Inger (Birgitte Federspiel), who is pregnant with their third child. Johannes (Preben Lerdoff Rye), who went insane
studying Kiekegaard, believes himself to be Jesus Christ, and wanders the farm condemning the faith of those around him, including the new pastor of the village, who pays the family a visit on several occasions. The
youngest son, Anders (Cay Kristiansen), is in love with Anne Petersen (Gerda Nielsen), the daughter of Peter (Ejner Federspiel), the local tailor and the leader of of a Christin sect. Following Anders' refused proposition by Peter, Morton - formerly against the marriage - protests the refusal, viewing it as a dishonour to his family. Their conflict, Johannes disillusionment and the approaching birth of Inger and Mikkel's child culminates in a stunning finale.
Having seen The Passion of Joan of Arc
prior to this experience, my interest in Ordet
was piqued when I was watching A Story of Film
and saw Dreyer and this film feature heavily. What is extraordinary about Ordet
is that for even a viewer with absolutely no religious beliefs, it presents the possibility that miracles can happen. The varying faiths, or lack of, present within these characters clash with one another, and it isn't until the conclusion where we see just how united a group of disparate people can become. I can't think of a film I have seen, perhaps with the exception of Ingmar Bergman's pair of Winter Light
and Through a Glass Darkly
, that deals with the power of spirituality and faith in such a profound way.