How do we understand faith and prayer, and what of miracles? August 1925 on a Danish farm. Widowed Patriarch Borgen, who’s rather prominent in his community, 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.
User Reviews: Others have reviewed this picture in a more scholarly and contextual manner than I can, so I will only endeavor to add the following:
I have a particular interest in the nature of faith, and undertook to view Ordet as something "good for me," but probably arduous. Wrong! I also grew up in an area heavily populated by Scandinavians, and knew immigrants who were contemporaries of the oldest characters in the picture.
Ordet, set in 1925, is a dead-on take of old-school Scandinavian culture, suffused with both the most intense dramatic elements imaginable and moments of comic relief as well. The action moves right along without help of special effects or a distracting musical score.
This picture at least alludes to the seldom-asked question, "Why do people believe?" Is it merely for the rewards of faithfulness, or something more?
The final scene, utterly devoid of effects or music, has a dramatic power unexcelled in the ensuing 47 years of cinema to date. It is very long, but uses its duration in service of the tension of the story. Nobody is yelling, fighting or firing weapons, despite the fact they are enduring emotional torment that is as painful as it gets.
In an oblique way, the scene reminded me of the part of Jim Jarmusch’s "Down By Law" where Tom Waits and Co. are sitting in the clink in real time, and time passes glacially in one very long scene, illustrating the sheer boredom of incarcerated life. Here real time is used to illustrate the unrelenting nature of grief. In both cases we see what happens long after the scene would have changed in nearly any other picture. The pace conforms plausibly with real life, and in so doing serves the dramatic tension.
One negative review alludes to the final shot and the expression in a character’s eyes. I would defend that as an insight that no blessing is unmixed.
As others have noted, one needn’t hold a Christian point of view to enjoy this film and be given much to ponder. See it.