The Borgen’s are a peasant family living in rural Denmark. They love their pigs, smoking their pipe and God. One day Anders Borgen (Cay Kristiansen), Morten Borgen’s (Henrik Malberg) youngest son announces that he wants to get married with Anne Petersen (Gerda Nielsen). Unfortunately, the Petersen’s don’t share the Borgen’s religious views and ascribe to a slightly different group of Christians, so that’s a no-go. Things however escalate when Morten’s daughter Inger (Birgitte Federspiel) gets sick. Meanwhile her younger brother Johannes (Preben Lerdorff Rye) thinks he’s the second coming, prancing around the house speaking of resurrection and making crazy faces. Who are these people?
Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Ordet is a great Danish art house cinema classic. It’s not just the way it was shot and how beautifully the theater play was adapted into a film, but it’s also its competence and reverence for the themes it explores. Religion might be the touchiest of all subject matters. Often times it’s either treated in a superficial way, diluting a lot of interesting ideas and discourses or simply made fun of and discarded as something silly and irrelevant. Ordet on the other hand not only understands how to deal with faith and spirituality, but it shows the conflicts that come from it and how religion is never really the problem, but people’s pride and fanaticism.
The film is definitely a character piece and works well in its (mostly) one-location setting. Although two hours long and based exclusively on dialogues the film doesn’t have one dull moment. What is really great about it however is the ending, which I won’t spoil, but I’ll just say that it elevates the film to a whole different level. It is a bold move on the part of the director and it is believable because of the great actors in this film. The film’s best shots come at the end, but throughout there’s a great use of black & white, to set the film’s tone and create a very specific mood. I highly recommend this film especially if you like Ingmar Bergman, are interested in philosophy or love the Criterion Collection.
8 out of 10