In 1925, after a mental breakdown pondering the fundamental questions of faith and religion, theology student Johannes Borgen (Preben Lerdorff Rye), wanders in the Danish countryside, preaching to the wind, believing that he is Jesus Christ. His younger brother, Anders (Cay Kristiansen), sets out to find him with their pious father, Morten (Henrik Malberg). The eldest brother, Mikkel (Emil Hass Christensen), a morally decent agnostic, is alerted to Johannes' disappearances by his wife, Inger (Birgitte Federspiel), and joins in the familiar ritual. When Anders confides to Mikkel and Inger that he is in love with Anne (Gerda Nielsen), the daughter of a strict, religious fundamentalist tailor, Peter (Ejnar Federspiel), a fierce confrontation about conflicting observations of faith is inevitable.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A poignantly timely release of Carl Dreyer's exploration of the differences between fundamentalist and humanist observation of faith, Ordet was made in the mid 50s, just about the time when the first post war shudders were being felt in society. Rock n' roll was scaring the oldies ... But while Dreyer is not talking about rock n' roll, Kaj Munk's play deals with 'old' church and 'new' or enlightened church.
Reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman's spare style when exploring similar themes (eg The Seventh Seal), Dreyer's work is disciplined and focused, rather like a Jesuit, really. The film sets up the contrasting lifestyles of the gently faithful Danish farming family against the sparse world of the fundamentalists.
The story culminates in a religious experience that offers hope and unity - but not without cost.
Dreyer's formalised direction suits the subject matter but makes the scenes look stilted and forced; performances follow suit at times, and the message becomes more important than the storytelling, weakening the film's impact.
Published July 17, 2008
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ORDET: DVD (PG)
CAST: Henrik Malberg, Emil Hass Christensen, Preben Lerdorff
PRODUCER: Carl Theodor Dryer, Erik Nielsen, Tage Nielsen
DIRECTOR: Carl Theodor Dreyer
SCRIPT: Carl Theodor Dreyer (play by Kaj Munk)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Henning Bendsten
EDITOR: Edith Schlussel
MUSIC: Poul Schierbeck
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Erik Aaes
RUNNING TIME: 120 minutes
PRESENTATION: 4:3 B&W; DD 2.0 mono; English subtitles
SPECIAL FEATURES: Interviews with Birgitte Federspiel; essay by Jonathan Rosenbaum; two short films by Carl Dryer
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
DVD RELEASE: March 12, 2008