The Divine Order, 2017, Switzerland, 96 minutes long, winner of the Audience Award for Best Narrative Film at the Tribeca Film Festival, was written and directed by Petra Biondina Volpe. In German-Swiss, with English subtitles, it stars Marie Leuenberger in a luminous portrayal as Nora; Max Simonischek, as Hans, a husband forced to grow up quickly; Rachel Braunschweig as the troubled but loving Theresa; Sibylle Brunner as courageous Vroni; and Marta Zoffoli as the inspiring pioneer Graziella; also featuring Bettina Stucky, Peter Freiburghaus, Therese Affolter, Ella Rumpf, Nicholas Ofczarek and Sofia Helin.
A Zodiac Films Production, the credits/production team includes: producers Reto Schaerli and Lukas Hobi; cinematographer Judith Kaufmann; editor Hansjörg Weissbrich; music producer Annette Focks; production designer Su Erdt; costume dsigner Linda Harper; makeup artist Jean Cotter; sound designer Patrick Storck; head of production Claude Witz; production manager Sarah Bossard; casting by Ruth Hirschfeld and Corinna Glaus.
The Divine Order is a film that engages from the instant it opens. With beautiful, compelling cinematography, it takes the viewer to 1971 Switzerland where- it’s hard to believe- women were still denied the right to vote. When the relationships unfold in the throwback-to-an-earlier-world village, we see that Swiss society is already changing in the bigger cities, but the chauvinism of centuries has not yet shifted in this hamlet.
Nora (Marie Leuenberger, winner of a Best Actress award at Tribeca) and her husband Hans live with his brutish brother, long-suffering wife, nubile niece, controlling father and their 2 small sons. Although she calls Hans “the love of her life” and he’s secretly sympathetic to suffragettes, he’s never given her an orgasm and forbids her to take a part-time job. When niece Hana is committed to jail by her parents for going on a motorcycle trip with a young man, Nora’s frustration leads her to join the women’s rights movement. She forms a number of heart-warming bonds, learns about her body, gets a makeover; life opens up.
Soon her photo is all over the village. This newfound celebrity brings humiliation and threats to her husband, and Hans begins to talk of divorce. Rather than succumbing, instead gathering strength from her newfound alliances, Nora convinces the women of the village to go on strike shortly before the referendum.
The events that unfold are filled with gentle humor and modest suspense. They take the audience through a gamut of emotions, ultimately delivering an uplifting political/social as well as interpersonally liberating ending, without promising- a la Hollywood- that everything has been fixed.
The film is filled with endearing and realistic portrayals; even the villains are likable and fully fleshed. What is more, there is never an obvious or easy solution; a believable pace and development works all the way through. This is a movie that everybody can enjoy, and it’s highly recommended.
As a side-note, The Women’s Right to Vote in Switzerland indeed passed on February 7, 1971 and Swiss women finally were given voting rights; but their fight for equality still continues today- as it does everywhere.
The Divine Order is a Zeitgeist Films release in association with Kino Lorber.
SWITZERLAND’S SUBMISSION FOR THE ACADEMY AWARDS BEST FOREIGN-LANGUAGE FILM
WINNER – AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST FEATURE – TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2017
WINNER – AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST FICTION FILM – TRAVERSE CITY FILM FESTIVAL 2017
All photos courtesy of Zeitgeist Films