Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ordet, or OMG that didn't just happen

So, we've taken a bit of a break while I was traveling and then sick and my partner in crime was packing and then moving. BUT! We're settled now and ready to get going again! I basically banned any peeks into the book for my brainmate once I saw the film because it totally gives away the end and, well, the end is what we might call a thing. So, we're also missing an introduction to this film. We'll be back on track completely asap--pinky swear.

Before we get to the end, we have to talk about the beginning and middle. So, I'll try to list what I kind of liked first. It's a simple, easy cinematography that is super appropriate to content and character. No one's trying to be flashy and in my face. I thought the movie felt a bit like a play in that way and, sure enough, the film is based on a play by Kaj Munk. I liked the characters well enough as people.

But there are quite a few problems. First, can we get a movie that's worse for women? Inger is really only in the film to advance the plot. She actually works to move the plot forward--telling Anders to talk to Peter; trying to convince Morten; making the house run; supposedly carrying a male heir who will continue the family; etc. Her death is the punishment for both Morten and Mikkel (as well as Peter, actually) for being the not right sort of religious . . . .and, the end. And poor Anne barely gets a line at all and her mother doesn't get much more. And, the girl child could have just as easily been a boy in terms of character (besides the obvious has to be a girl because the dead child would have been the first male heir).

And, what's up with the delusional people in foreign movies lately? Last round the guy thought he was a cow. This round we have Jesus. And I'm not sure either is actually effective as commentary. Focusing on Ordet, why does Johannes have to think he's Christ? No reason I can determine other than being holier than thou which other characters also think themselves holier than Christ (the actual historical and sacred Christ as well as Johannes psycho Christ) so . . . . Oh, right and the end.

So, the end. It's not a secret that I frequently have HUGE problems with the ends of both movies and books. Hell, toss in TV shows, too. But, this one? Jesus. Except, no. Johannes no longer thinks he's Jesus. As soon as Inger became ill I knew she would die and I basically started chanting, there's no way she's coming back to life there's no way she's coming back to life there's no way she's coming back to life . . . Then Johannes returns to his family "normal" and I thought "super! that's the twist." It's all about being holy and religious in your own way. Except, no, Inger freaking comes back to life. Seriously? I just watched this whole movie that took pains to be meticulously realistic and I get slammed in the face with this bullshit? And here I thought I was watching a serious meditation on religion and its effects on community. I was apparently wrong.

I *suppose* if one were religious, this film might have a different message BUT this is the book of 1001 movies "YOU" should watch before you die NOT the list of 1001 movies that people who were disappointed that the rapture didn't really happen last weekend should watch before being vacuumed to heaven. That last scene totally yanks the rug out of the rest of the movie--and the rest of the movie was decent.

So, why, Master Book must we watch this before we die? Apparently, this film "manages to persuade the viewer that a miracle can happen." Nope. Apparently the film also "leaves it to the spectator to decide whether [Inger's] revivial is a matter of mere scientific inability to understand the improbably or strength of faith." Really? Were you confused? I wasn't just because there isn't really a scientific explanation--in that there is no biological reason that woman sat up after being dead for that long. But "Wherein lies Ordet's greatness: by the time the 'miracle' occurs, the film has earned our respect for its integrity--we understand the people on screen, because their actions, emotions, thoughts, and doubts are like our own." But, no, like the politician who rallies for goodness and sense earns my respect and then plummets into the depths of my disrescpect when child porn is found on his hard drive, so goes this film when its common sense and realism steps aside to reveal not only a "miracle" but a damned absurd miracle.


  1. First, kudos on the post. It made me laugh out loud multiple times.

    And though we differed on the effectiveness of Inger's resurrection (I think for me that at that point the movie felt so stagey that I was ready to roll with it), do you agree with the book that its message was "persuading the viewer that miracles can happen"? For me, the ending felt more like a confirmation of the unknowability (probably not a word) and unpredictability of the world. Inger lives, the baby dies (cut in four pieces? Damn, that was dark.). Mikkel gains faith, Johannes loses his (or at least his expression of it). Morten gains a daughter, Peter loses one. And according to the patriarchal language of the film, the family is left in limbo. Will there be a son? Does "The Son" exist?

    I might be seeing stuff that isn't there, but I like the movie better if it's open-ended rather than a neat confirmation of miracles. Then it's totally like Signs.

  2. I absolutely do not think that the message was ". . . miracles can happen." Perhaps we need someone of blind faith to watch the film (do we know one of those we trust?) but the movie didn't sell miracles to me at all.

    I like the open-ended version you give because, yeah, Signs makes me ill just thinking about it and the film actually means more if it leaves the viewer (and the characters) with questions.

    I also liked the rainbow/sunshine Christians v. doom/gloom (hello, Rapture!) Christians. For me, that dichotomy was the point of the film--you can't just be one or the other to function in the world or be Christian or bad shit will happen. And, well, maybe I'm just dead inside but I think it all would have been more effective if Inger remained dead, psycho-Jesus/Johannes never came home, and Anders did not get the girl. It felt too neat at the end, too wrapped up with a bow: thanks for watching tonight's movie, let's have a hug, and here's your Christianity to go.

    And, yeah, four pieces and in a bucket. Serious darkness there.

  3. You know it's bad news when the doctor asks you to find a bucket.

    I'm not sure if the movie actually presents this argument or if I filled it in myself, but do you think the Johannes-Jesus was also a critique? When he was always stalking around looking suffering and making pronouncements, I couldn't help thinking, I bet sometimes Jesus just hung out with his buds and had a beer and talked about sports.

  4. Ugh. Buckets are bad.

    I don't know. I couldn't quite tell what the movie wanted us to believe--what the "right" way to be Christian is. I'm betting Jesus just hung out quite a bit--the whole, be of the people thing--and I'm quite sure he didn't walk around talking like a zombie.

    I guess that's part of my problem, too: I don't know what the movie is arguing for. It's supposedly ambiguous about miracles; we can't be doom/gloom/Rapture Christians because that's bad and requires giving away a daughter in repentance; we can't be happy/rainbow Christians because a grandson will get chopped up and a daughter-in-law will temporarily die; we can't be "whatever" Christians like Mikkel or repeat happy/rainbow; we can't be scholarly Christians because we'll go mad and think ourselves Jesus; we can't be devout and accepting of others or the child we're carrying . . .and we'll temporarily die; we can't be science or we'll be proven wrong; we can't be faithful but skeptical of miracles like the preacher or we'll be proven wrong . . . .

    So, are we to be the child who actually thinks her mad uncle is Jesus? That seems slightly Denmark's Next False Idol.

  5. Okay, nothing I can possibly say will ever top Denmark's Next False Idol.

  6. Ha! My evil plan has worked! I don't have to write much if I can just hit the perfect snarky note :)