The Divine Order
Marie Leuenberger, Maximilian Simonischek, Rachel Braunschweig
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…overall its shortcomings are ably papered over by the zeitgeist button-pushing…
It wasn’t until 1971 that Switzerland’s female citizens were afforded the right to vote and The Divine Order tells the story of one Swiss housewife’s fight for equality in a remote mountain village. Nora’s (Marie Leuenberger) desire for self-determinism shines through despite the fetters of an oppressive patriarchal social culture and a dreary, housework-laden marriage to husband Hans (Maximilian Simonischek). It’s not long before Nora’s inner activist is triggered by two incidents: Hans forbids her to seek employment (a right he’s afforded by the state) and her rebellious niece Hanna (Ella Rumpf) is sent by her oafish father to a juvenile prison, for having an older boyfriend. So, while Max is away doing National Service military training, Nora seizes the two weeks of freedom to sign up to a women’s rights activist group.
The group decide to ‘strike’, ceasing all wifely duties until the day of the vote. The town husbands are vocal in their opposition, but the women’s group finds solace in solidarity. Awakening to Feminist ideology and the new-found empowerment of ‘the Vagina’, Nora befriends the free-spirited Graziella (Marta Zoffoli) and the elderly Vroni (Sibylle Brunner), a woman who had invested her lifeblood into the running of a restaurant, until it was shuttered by her financially inept husband because money, apparently, is solely a man’s concern.
So, although the film’s conclusion is inevitable, the issues at stake are relevant enough for it to have some resonance with audiences. There’s a strong dramatic core to the film (though it’s less comedic than socio-political comedies such as Brassed Off, Made in Dagenham or Pride) and there are moments of quirky humour and euro-oddity.
Writer/Director Petra Volpe is a capable hand behind the camera and the awakening to strident feminism amidst a befuddled patriarchy makes for fertile filmic territory. Though the film falters at times with undeveloped plotlines and characters, overall its shortcomings are ably papered over by the zeitgeist button-pushing; so while it’s a little mawkish and paint-by-numbers, its heartfelt honesty cannot be ignored.