Friday, October 6, 2017


Ordet. What to make of this film?

Despite what I had read before I saw it, I never found Ordet slow -- certainly not when compared with late Tarkovsky, or even with Dreyer's earlier film, Day of Wrath.

Nor did I find the film especially "strange" in its technique. Theatrical, yes; much of it seemed like a filmed stage play, but not to the detriment of the story.

Instead, I found the film easily watchable, compelling, often funny. As the story went on, I began to care about the people, and by the midpoint, I found myself concerned for them.

But that ending, as beautifully directed as it was, felt unreal to me. While I had been moved earlier in the film, I suddenly found myself detached. While I had been drawn in before, I suddenly felt myself pushed away.

By any standards I can apply, from the experience of my own life to the methods used by other dramas, the final moments of Ordet are a lie, a deliberate lie, and a lie with cruel implications.

I can accept a film in which a sympathetic person dooms herself with a confession of witchcraft, because people in totalitarian societies often have internalized the accusations made against them. I can also accept a film that wants me to believe, while the story moves along, in vampires, because I have neither hope nor emotional investment in the reality of vampires.

But having watched my father die, having lost people I love, having known exactly how it feels to confront the reality and finality of death despite all of my hopes, I have to reject the final sequence of Ordet.

Or should I say, perhaps, that it rejected me?

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