Film Review: THE DIVINE ORDER (Switzerland 2017) ***

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The Divine Order Poster

Switzerland, 1971: Nora is a young housewife and mother who lives with her husband and their two sons in a peaceful little village. Here, in the Swiss countryside, little or nothing is felt… See full summary »


Petra Biondina Volpe (as Petra Volpe)


Petra Biondina Volpe (as Petra Volpe)


There have been quite a few films about women fighting for their right to vote, the most notable being the splashy SUFFRAGETTE that had Meryl Streep in a cameo.  DIVINE ORDER from Switzerland examines the same subject but makes it clear from the beginning that it is taking its study from a different point of view.

When the film opens, archive footage of current events in the world (particularly in the U.S.) – the hippie movement, the rock and roll, the political unrest are displayed on screen with the voiceover emphasizing that the small Swiss village the film is set is still behind the times.    

THE DIVINE ORDER thus makes its stance on a different footing, differentiating itself from films like SUFFRAGETTE, and works in a way, as the film not only becomes more personal but one that people around the world can relate to.  It is no surprise then that THE DIVINE ORDER  was selected as the Swiss entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 90th Academy Awards.

The film is set in a small Swiss village in the year 1971. Nora (Marie Leuenberger) is a young housewife and mother, living with her husband and their two sons. The Swiss countryside is untouched by the major social upheavals the movement of 1968 has brought about.  Nora’s life is not affected either; she is a quiet person who is liked by everybody.  But when she finds her niece taken away for ‘retraining’ after having a boyfriend and her refused by her husband from taking a job, she sees the need to fight for women’s rights.  She starts to publicly fight for women’s suffrage, which the men are due to vote on in a ballot on February 7, 1971.

Director Volpe plays her film safe.  Unfolding in chronological order, she  shows the audience Nora’s life, and how she eventually discovers the need to stand up.  An excellent moment is her waking up in the morning with her young son asking her about his breakfast, as is expected by a male from a female, without much thought from the son. This follows with the opportunity for her to make a difference, followed then by her acquaintance with others who feel the same way.

There is always something moving to watch an underdog (Nora in this case) give everything to do what is right.  Director Volpe milks this tactic to the fullest thus making her little film work wonders.

Though the subject has been covered in other films, Volpe’s film is incident driven, which breaks the monotony at many points in the film, when one feels that it is just about to occur.

THE DIVINE ORDER is a quiet and small film but effectively done, clearly executed by the cast, crew and director who are convinced of the importance of its subject matter.  The film is shot in German.


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