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How do we understand faith and prayer, and what of miracles? August 1925 on a Danish farm. Patriarch Borgen has three sons: Mikkel, a good-hearted agnostic whose wife Inger is pregnant, Johannes, who believes he is Jesus, and Anders, young, slight, in love with the tailor's daughter. The fundamentalist sect of the girl's father is anathema to Borgen's traditional Lutheranism; he opposes the marriage until the tailor forbids it, then Borgen's pride demands that it happen. Unexpectedly, Inger, who is the family's sweetness and light, has problems with her pregnancy. The rational doctor arrives, and a long night brings sharp focus to at least four views of faith. Written by
And the rest of us, all the rest of us, we go straight down to hell to eternal torments, don't we? Yes, that's what you think, isn't it?
Yes. Words, words, you have them all right.
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A totally sincere, deeply moving, and unforgettable work of art.
Since I first saw this film when I was 18, Ordet (The Word) has remained as one of my top five favorites.
Ordet is an allegory about the power of simple, direct faith to produce results when every other means fail. Based on a 1944 play by a Danish priest who was killed by the Nazis, the great Danish Director Carl Dreyer dramatizes this faith in the form of a Christian miracle which provides healing for an entire family in crisis.
The transformation, when it occurs, takes place through the purity and innocence of a child, the direct personal experience of God, and the redemptive power of love. Ordet is almost Bressonian in its depiction of grace through suffering (Balthazar) and purity (Diary of a Country Priest). Dreyer shows two families, one steeped in a fundamentalist faith, the other with a Christian faith that lacks real power or conviction. Dreyer creates a moody, atmospheric, almost dreamlike rural setting, using light and shadow to contrast a life-affirming attitude with one that denies joy.
Mikkel Borgen, one of three brothers, whose wife Inger is giving birth to their third child, has denied faith completely. Another brother, Anders, is in love with and wants to marry the daughter of Peter the tailor, a fundamentalist preacher who refuses the relationship because of Anders' religion. Peter goes so far as to wish that Inger would die giving birth if it will teach the family a lesson. The third brother, Johannes, has "lost his mind" studying Kierkegaard and believes he is Christ reincarnated.
The movie has a long and very slow, almost agonizing buildup until the final scene which, when it comes, is one of the most moving and powerful climaxes in cinema. Whether or not you adhere to the message of Ordet from a strictly religious point of view or not, Ordet, for me, is a truly religious experience. Do I think the power of intention and love can bring someone back from the dead? No, probably not. There is too much of an inexorable quality about the final transition.
I think that the film is best viewed as an allegory contrasting people who live in their mind and not their experience and feel powerless to change their lives, with people who know that they have the ability to transform the quality of their life and the lives of those around them.
Ordet, ultimately, is about the difference between looking for God through a belief system while failing to see God within you and around you. How did Johannes achieve this power? He simply asks. Johannes remembers that Christ said, "Ask and you shall receive", and asks with a profound faith in the outcome. The others, so caught up in their "beliefs", simply forget to ask. How often does the opportunity to make a difference seem so far from our grasp that we don't bother to ask?
Ordet, for me, is a totally sincere, deeply moving, and unforgettable work of art.
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