, ,


The Word      

Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer

Denmark, 1955

Cornerhouse, 13 May 2012


There is no doubting that the film is the work of a master.

Everything’s beautifully composed, consummately cinematic.  The drama is set in a small rural community and revolves around issues of religious dogma and faith: there’s a family of landowners, a priest, a doctor… just as in an Ibsen or Chekhov play.

Like efforts of that ilk, it is a talky, serious piece – most of the time, anyway.  The key scene occurs at a wake.  When a child is brought in to say farewell to her mother, who’s laid out in a coffin, someone pipes up and says, ‘She’s a child, she doesn’t understand.’  Which elicits the response, ‘None of us understand.’  And that sums up the subject that the film grapples with: the mystery of human existence, the not knowing.

Not everyone will go with the ‘leap of faith’ solution set out here.  But there’s no doubting the seriousness and the integrity of Dreyer’s film.  A religious film, it leaves you with the feeling that there’s an existence beyond death.  So the world seems more at home, less fearful.  As with any feeling, it passes.

Ordet is showing again on Wednesday as part of the Matinee Classics season, further details here.