Ordet (The Word) Reviews
Ordet can be slow moving at times. However, if you keep watching it, you will be in for a treat. It can easily suck you in and give you an amazing experience. I'm not sure if I'd call it suspenseful though like I've seen some people do. I think that simply calling it engaging and well-directed is a better description of my experience with this film.
This film centers around the conflict between the Borgen family and the Peterson family. The devout widower Morten Borgen has 3 sons. The first one is named Johannes, who went insane and believes that he is Jesus Christ. His oldest son is named Mikkel, who despite having no faith, is happily married to his wife Inger, who is pregnant, but in poor health. His third son, Anders, is in love with the Peterson's daughter, Anne. However, her father, Peter, refuses Anders proposal as they're not of the same faith. A long night leads to conflict between the 2 families.
The best scene in the film is when Morten tries to convince Peter to let Anders marry Anne. They have to wait for him to finish his prayer meeting with his congregation, and after everyone leaves, Morten and Peter talk alone. Their conversation starts out peaceful and mature at first as Morten raises several good points in hopes of convincing Peter. However, after Peter enrages him in a shocking twist, Morten wants nothing to do with him and he takes Anders and leaves their house. This scene gives the viewer a lot of insight into the character flaws of Peter and it gives the viewer a different impression of him. This scene lingered on with me after viewing the film for that reason.
I also found Inger's pregnancy very disturbing and hard to watch. Even though the doctor's work was covered up by a sheet, I still found it to be a disturbing sequence. This scene was made disturbing by the doctor's facial expressions, and the pain that Inger showed throughout the ordeal. While the doctor operated on her, her house seemed lifeless as the lighting was very dim and their house seemed dull. This scene was also made powerful with the way how Inger's family reacted to her condition. They seemed depressed and worried throughout it. For instance, Morten didn't seem to be effected that much by Johannes' ramblings. He would slowly pace around his house all the while impatiently waiting for the doctor to finish his operation. Occasionally, he would talk to a family member who walked by him, but he seemed pretty lifeless throughout the sequence. This sequence was slow, and it took up a pretty big portion of the film. However, I wasn't bored by it, because of director Carl Theodor Dreyer's great directing.
As great and engaging as the film can be at times, it can sometimes be a difficult wait getting to the good scenes, because the movie has pacing issues. These issues are present in its first act where it feels very slow moving and, for the most part, uninteresting, compared to the latter half. There were a couple interesting scenes in the first act such as the opening scene, but those scenes were very few and far in between. Some people complained that the first part of the film was boring. However, I wouldn't say that I was bored by it. It just made me grow impatient as I wanted to get to the good parts.
Based on the reviews I've read of this film, I know that I'm in the vast minority here, but my other issue with the film is with its ending. I found it to be the weakest part of the film. Now, credit where credit is due, it was pretty surprising. Also, it gives a bit of ambiguity to Johannes' character. That's what I liked about its ending. As a whole, however, it didn't do much for me. I really hate the fake-death cliché that so many movies do. I like films which aren't afraid of having a tragic ending much more. On my first viewing of the film, I found Inger's 'death' to be surprising and sad. However, on my 2nd viewing, the pregnancy sequence didn't have that much of an impact on me as I already knew that she would survive. If the film would have had a tragic ending instead, that scene would've likely effected me a lot more.
In conclusion, this was a well-made film that had the power to engage me quite a lot with Dreyer's great direction and writing. Dreyer is clearly a talented director as is evident with this film. Even though this film had a few flaws, I'm still interested in checking out more of Dreyer's films, because several of them made it onto Sight & Sounds' "Greatest Films of All Time" list in 2012. I'll make sure to check some of them out in the future.
Each shot in the film was deliberately set up, lit and prepared in such a way that they look like painting compositions. Everything is very sparse and minimal. The subject matter isn't something that I would normally be drawn to but it is well worth a watch. It ranks in the top 25 of both the directors and critics poll of the greatest films of all time.
While it was slow at first, the movie had me when the two old fathers had their discourse on the difference of their Christian faiths -- one believes that the faith is about the warmth of life; the other looks forward to coldness of death. I on the other hand believe that faith is a personal, special, and individual gift from God so that one cannot impose his to the other. I was oscillating from one side of the argument to the other as both have points which are also part of what I believe in.
And when the movie piles up surprises upon surprises (that are not just whimsical; they also made me ask more questions), there goes that finale that is brave enough in the filmmakers' part -- yet so powerful that it made ask myself -- how big can ever my faith be.
*Note- The Flixster review confuses two of the sons, Anders & Mikkel.