Sibylle Brunner as Vroni and Marie Leuenberger as Nora in “The Divine Order.” (Photo courtesy of Zeitgeist Films)
It’s 1971 and women’s suffrage has not yet found its way to Switzerland.
Nora (Marie Leuenberger) is young wife and mother in a small Swiss village. She’s at least moderately happy with the life that she’s built with her husband, Hans (Maximilian Simonischek) – modest home, two young sons, a close relationship with extended family members, including his father and her sister and her family.
But Nora wants more. She wants to get a job to help contribute financially to the household and simply because she wants more out of life, but she needs Hans’ permission – by law – to do so. She wants a voice, she wants freedom. But in order to do that she needs to be able to vote likeminded lawmakers into office … but she can’t vote.
Along with some of the other women in the village, Nora has an awakening and realizes that if she is to receive what she wants and deserves, she’ll need to fight for it … which, somewhat begrudgingly, leads her to become the face of the women’s liberation movement for the small town.
Here’s the thing about “The Divine Order” that I find so fascinating: if you were to change 1971 to 2017 and voting to, well, just about anything else, but let’s go with equal pay, you wouldn’t have many other major tweaks to make … that’s how far we haven’t come.
A story of a group rising up to take should have already been theirs already carries a lot of weight, but given our current political/societal state, it takes on even more.
Maximilian Simonischek as Hans and Marie Leuenberger as Nora in “The Divine Order.” (Photo courtesy of Zeitgeist Films)
And, at least for the most part, the film delivers. It features solid, but not outstanding, performances from its actors. Its main plot is interesting and features some genuinely funny moments, along with some genuinely endearing ones, too. I can’t, however, say the same thing about the subplots, which run the gamut from ridiculous to overly melodramatic. I know why they’re there (to show how the other villagers arrive to the cause), but they felt forced.
A word of caution here: the film’s dialogue is often pretty quick, so unless you speak the language fluently, or are really good at reading subtitles quickly, you might miss some things along the way (I don’t, I can’t, and I did).
Aside from that, my only other quibble with the film is its pace. Despite being just over 90 minutes, it drags a bit in places, which is
“The Divine Order” is certainly not a perfect movie, but it’s definitely important and certainly worth investing 90 minutes into.
★★★1/2 of ★★★★★
"The Divine Order" is the Swiss submission for the Best Foreign Language Film for this year’s Academy Awards. It is now playing at Landmark Lagoon in Minneapolis.