Around this time of year I start scouting around for good movies to give as Christmas presents. Our family doesn’t watch TV nor do we visit many movie theaters. But we do like good entertainment, especially when it has strong Christian values.
This past weekend I found a movie that absolutely enthralled me. I’ve already ordered it for Christmas. Rotten Tomatoes is a secular movie critic site and they voted it 4.35 out of 5 stars. Time Out is a company who does secular movie reviews as well and they gave it a 5 out of 5 rating. This is shocking to me and will be to you to after you see it.
I must warn you that it is probably the most boring movie ever for the first hour. I know, you can handle it, PLEASE WAIT IT OUT. Don’t start watching it when you’re prone to be sleepy. I almost didn’t make it. I had to get up and get a snack to wake myself up. The acting is painfully slow and it takes a while for the plot to gel. However when the movie is over you’ll understand why it had to be this way. Trust me, you’ll be thrilled you endured the beginning. You’ll never forget it. It will be branded in your mind and spirit.
Don’t get too weirded out by the adult son who thinks he’s Jesus Christ, nor the boring rituals of the religious meetings. That will all work itself out. You can’t watch this movie with conversations going on in the room. You have to be silent and watch intentionally. It is a foreign film with sub-titles. you’ll forget you’re reading it soon into it.
The author of the play on which the film was based (and which was previously filmed in 1943) was Kaj Munk, a Danish pastor murdered by the Nazis for daring to announce his fidelity to Christ over Hitler.
Get ready, this is powerful! Watch it you must!
Time Out’s movie review of Ordet:
‘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.