Ordet (1955) – Carl Theodor Dreyer

The next film from the What Else to Watch category of DK Canada’s The Movie Book following my screening of The Passion of Joan of Arc is another Dreyer film, and it is becoming more than evident to me that he was fascinated by the ideas of religion.

Ordet follows the trials and tribulations of the Borgen family, both within the familial structure but also the Danish town in which they live. The patriarch, Morten (Henrik Malberg) is very set in his religious ways. So much so that it puts him at odds with the town, who despite believing in the same text and god, interpret their meanings in different ways.

This causes problems, when the youngest son of the family, Anders (Cay Kristiansen) has his heart set on marrying Anne (Gerdia Nielsen) the tailor’s daughter.

But there are more problems as well, there is Johannes (Prebern Lerdoff Rye) who believes he is Christ returned to Earth, and Mikkel (Emil Hass Christensen) and his pregnant wife Inger (Birgitte Federspiel) whose hopes for a son are endangered by complications with the birth.

Within the structure of the sons are three extremes of belief, Anders believes in the heart, and love, that things can be surmounted as long as the heart guides, Johannes who is convinced he is the son divine and doesn’t understand why they can believe in the dead Christ but not a living, returned one, and Mikkel, who is agnostic, but tolerant of the beliefs of those around him.

Morten first refuses to consider the thought of Anders marrying Anne, but when her father (Ejner Federspiel) refuses Anders’ request, it becomes a matter of pride for Morten that the two young people should marry.


While they confront one another, Inger’s delivery grows complicated and science and religion are briefly pitted against each other, and even discussed.

The ending, however, no matter Dreyer’s personal beliefs comes down firmly on the side of religion and the possibility of miracles and the birth of faith.

That bothered me a bit, because that ending, I’m sure meant to tug at one’s heartstrings, and reaffirm the faith of believers simply raised all manner of questions for me.

Despite that, I did like how the film was put together. Only occasionally venturing outside (with a flurry of wipes in the last quarter of the film – which felt decidedly jarring and out of place after the established storytelling style in the previous three quarters) most of the film is confined to households, bedrooms, dining rooms, and whether intentional or not, there is a claustrophobic feel to the film, which could be interpreted as a sly commentary on the stifling nature of religion.

It was an interesting film, and I enjoyed it, but I think at this point, I’m ready to leave Dreyer behind and move on.

Have you seen any of his films? Thoughts? And if you haven’t, and want to see some other classic films and cinema, pick up a copy of DK Books’ The Movie Book and watch something tonight!



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