Monday, May 14, 2012
At some point during Ordet, around the time when a couple of old men with weird beards are sitting around a table smoking long pipes in a dreary house and discussing God and children, I remembered that The Avengers made $200 million dollars in three days and I laughed out loud. I haven't seen The Avengers and I plan on watching it at some point, so I'm not speaking to the quality of that film, or even really to the inaccessibility of this one - in fact, from a technical perspective, Ordet is actually not that difficult of a film (philosophically and emotionally, of course, it is intensely challenging). What seemed so absurd to me was just how big cinema is, that it can encompass both of these galaxies.
Like Day of Wrath before it, Ordet is a movie about faith. But Ordet is based on a play written by a preacher (who was later killed by the Nazis) so this isnt' going to be an indictment of Christianity - instead, it's a confirmation of God's existence (apparently made more literal in the film than in the play). What was so frustrating to me about the ending of Ordet was not the confirmed miracle, but the implication that it was this miracle which gave the husband faith in God. Faith is not the knowledge of something, but the belief in it despite its absence. When his wife is resurrected, the husband is no longer becoming faithful, but merely acknowledging the truth before his eyes. To me, this seems like the exact opposite of the intension of both the film and religion in general.
I certainly don't want to come off as rash or foolish, but Ordet is not a movie for me, as anyone who has read this blog has probably figured out. Still, it's a masterfully made film. Dreyer uses sweeping pans and subtle tracking with a dogged consistency that avoids becoming tiresome because it's so brilliantly incorporated into the tone of the film. The movie's swaying fields and sets that alternate between stage-like and realistically open (most notably in a couple of subtle but masterful 360˚ turns) call to mind another Scandinavian director who focused on faith, Ingmar Bergman, who was just hitting his stride around the time Ordet was released. (One funny similarity about Bergman and Dreyer: if you believe the DNA tests from last year regarding Bergman being switched at birth, both directors were not raised by their biological parents.) Bergman's films are more clearly accessible than Ordet for the atheist or agnostic because his characters are constantly questioning the absence (or at least as one movie was titled, The Silence) of God, but they also ring truer because they are not directly about faith or religion, but about people (the HUGE exception to this is probably The Seventh Seal, though a handful of other Bergman films might be debatable). Ordet didn't feel that way to me, so the film strikes me more as a cultural oddity than an emotionally memorable work.